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Movie Info

RATING:

PG for mild thematic elements and brief language

RELEASE:

Nov. 24, 2004

GENRE:

Drama

STARRING:

Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet, Julie Christie, Radha Mitchell, Dustin Hoffman, Freddie Highmore, Nick Roud, Joe Prospero, Kate Maberly, Luke Spill, Kelly MacDonald

WRITER:

David Magee

DIRECTOR:

Marc Forster

BASED ON:

The play "The Man Who Was Peter Pan," written by Allen Knee

DISTRIBUTOR:

Miramax Films

 

Please Note

In providing movie reviews on our site, CBN.com is not endorsing or recommending films we review. Our goal is to provide Christians with information about the latest movies, both the good and the bad, so that our readers may make an informed decision as to whether or not films are appropriate for them and their families.

MOVIE REVIEW

'Finding Neverland'

By Elliott Ryan
Guest Reviewer

CBN.com - For many years, Johnny Depp has been known as a talented actor who starred in many critically acclaimed, character-driven films. Rather than search out roles that would lead him to mainstream box office stardom, Depp often opted for roles in smaller films that would challenge his versatile acting abilities. Since his first starring role in Edward Scissorhands nearly fifteen years ago, his reputation has been slowly building with each picture. Depp finally seemed to turn the corner into full-blown Hollywood superstardom with 2003’s Pirates of the Caribbean as the movie was a huge success at the box office, and Depp received his first Oscar nomination.

Depp’s latest attempt to garner a Best Actor nomination is a somewhat true story based on the life of J.M. Barrie, author of “Peter Pan.” The characters are all based on actual people who really lived in London about a hundred years ago. But as with all Hollywood biopics, much creative license has been taken with the exact details of the characters’ lives and their interactions with each other. And of course, most viewers won’t know the difference.

Historical accuracy aside, this film is excellently done. Director Marc Forster, best known for directing the critically acclaimed, though decidedly family-unfriendly Monster’s Ball, has shown that he can put together a touching drama relatively safe for members of the whole family. He was assisted by a great cast. Of course, Depp turns in an intense performance as Barrie, managing to pull off a subtle mixture of playfulness and sorrow. The other standout performance goes to 12-year-old Freddie Highmore who played Peter Llewelyn-Davies who showed unusual depth for a child actor. (Depp and Highmore will be teaming up again on the big screen next year as Depp plays Willy Wonka and Highmore will play Charlie Bucket in the upcoming remake Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.)

Johnny Depp as J.M. Barrie and Freddie Highmore as Peter Llewelyn-Davies in 'Finding Neverland'The movie opens as Barrie, a playwright, attends opening night of his newest play, which, it turns out, is a disaster. Before long, the audience is introduced to Barrie’s financier (played by Dustin Hoffman) who is angry at the dismal failure Barrie’s play turned out to be. It soon becomes obvious that Barrie’s personal life is in shambles as he shares a bedroom with his dog while his wife (played by Radha Mitchell) sleeps down the hall.

Things start to look up for Barrie after he meets the Llewelyn-Davies family. Sylvia Llewelyn-Davies (played by Kate Winslet), the widowed mother of four boys, and her family inspire Barrie to write his most popular play ever while he inspires the family to imagine a more hopeful future. His relationship with the family raises some eyebrows with polite English society. But Barrie supplies a male role model to boys who need one. In turn, he finds himself returning to his own childhood imagination.

There are a few negatives to this film. First, Barrie completely neglects his own marriage to spend time with the Llewelyn-Davies family. His marriage to a former actress appears to be loveless from the start of the movie. His relationship with Sylvia Llewelyn-Davies is portrayed as completely platonic. However, Barrie is guilty of emotional if not physical adultery. Rather than attempt to save his failing marriage, Barrie is portrayed as being more concerned with his play dates than with the Llewelyn-Davies family. In addition, while there are no obscenities, there are a few polite references to sexual behavior.

There is also another concern to consider if taking small children to this film. The film does have a bit of a gloomy overtone at times as it focuses a good deal of time on the subject of death in general and children’s reaction to it in particular. Having recently lost their father, the Llewelyn-Davies boys are still dealing with their resulting emotions and fears in differing ways. Of course, many children’s movies have dealt with the death of a character’s parent in the past. This isn’t necessarily a reason to stay away from the movie but should be taken into consideration if taking small children to the theater who may be disturbed by this subject matter. On the other hand, it may open up an opportunity to talk to children about death and all that takes place afterwards.

Overall, this is a well-acted movie that may go on to become almost as beloved as Barrie’s play. It will be interesting to see if Depp’s stardom will be enough to convince moviegoers to watch this rather than any of the rest of the glut of movies opening in theaters this holiday season.

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