By Rory L. Aronsky | July 24, 2003

“Peter Pan” has seen so many incarnations on stage and screen, but you have never, EVER seen it like this. Call it the typical “critic statement” that you read every week in movie advertisements in newspapers or see on TV, but Damion Dietz has truly created something different with the “Peter Pan” story, and it is good. No, it is great!
For example, have you ever envisioned Neverland as anything other than what it appears as in the source material? How about a suburban amusement park? Wendy (Melany Bell), Michael (Marcus Reynaga) and John (Wil Wheaton) have also changed considerably. They are the adopted children of Mr. and Mrs. Darling (David Jahn and Deborah Quayle), high-society fucks who clearly aren’t too concerned about their children as they run off to this event and that event and I just wonder how the adoption agency actually allowed them to adopt. Perhaps it was the opulence of their home that was seen first and the people in charge of adoption saw that as enough evidence to allow the two to adopt. Wendy does not like the idea of being the levelheaded one in the family and seeing no reward for it. Michael is a silent guy who enjoys his parents’ personal assistant in more ways than one. And John wants his Internet business to succeed so his adopted mother will regret everything.
Things undoubtedly change as Peter Pan (Rick Sparks) enters their lives, looking for his car keys. Apparently, his car ran out of gas sometime back and Tinkerbell (Kari Wahlgren) threw the keys over the Darlings’ fence out of frustration. They eventually got gas, but didn’t know where in the Darlings’ residence the keys ended up. As it so happens, they ended up with Wendy. Peter goes searching for them and Tink hits the bottle for a little bit. He eventually meets Wendy and it’s not long before Wendy, Michael, and John are off with Peter and Tinkerbell to Neverland. Along the way, Dietz treats us to a really trippy travel sequence from outside the car with streetlights zigging and zagging back and forth with a great bit of music pumping on the soundtrack.
They get to Neverland and we are introduced to Captain Hook (Gary Kelley), who’s the “Head of Maintenance” at the theme park. He’s not happy with the way the image of the theme park as a place full of youthfulness and happiness is constantly messed up with litter, and teenagers with their various smoking paraphernalia. Kelley seems to like the role, but there are times when he seems unsure of where to go while on camera. He has Smee (Scott Mechlowicz) standing by him when he engages in a particular rant, his facial expressions illustrating his discontent, but his eyes don’t show it. His eyes make it look like he’s just reciting the lines. I’m not saying he should have overplayed that speech, but a perverted sort of sparkle in the eye should have been present. Perversion is definitely the name of Hook’s game, as you’ll find out as you watch this.
The Lost Boys are here too. One of them has a young son who he does not take proper care of; one scene where he decides to park his shopping cart with the kid in it is disturbing. Wendy talks more with Peter and appears to be somewhat smitten with him, but as time goes on, she’s less pleased with his actions and begins to understand more about herself as well and where her place is in life. It’s obvious from the get-go why she took this trip with Peter. Her current state of affairs wasn’t exactly providing her with anything exciting, and of course she would be attracted to something fun like a theme park. Her transformation provides one of the high points of the movie and Melany Bell is talented in the role. She doesn’t overdo it with her emotions, which works wonders. The “Clap If You Believe In Fairies” scene is in here too, but in a completely different light.
Even after all of this, there are some parts of “Peter Pan” that have not been revealed. For example, Tiger Lily (Ray Garcia) has a show at the theme park that involves Indians as well and, oh yeah, Lily happens to be a drag queen. Director Dietz really knows how to twist and turn the pages of J.M. Barrie’s famous story into something really worth watching. It’s clear that through everything (the digital photography, the sets, the actors, the writing), he wanted to set out on a course that’s different from the “Peter Pan” productions that play it safe by working the material as written. With all the research done about various “Peter Pan” productions on screen, it’s safe to say that Damion Dietz has accomplished something amazing. It’s fascinating, disturbing, wonderful, and sad at the same time. It also happens to have an incredibly original vision, which is definitely not a bad thing!

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