from Film Forum, 02/21/02
Families lined up this week for Disney's latest animated adventure—Return to Never Land. It's a strategy that's working for Disney—instead of investing in new ideas, just keep on revisiting the old ones. News from Yahoo tells us that Disney is "quietly preparing The Jungle Book II and Piglet's Big Movie for theatrical release next year."Reporter Scott Hettrick adds that Dumbo II, 101 Dalmatians: the Animated Sequel, Tarzan II, The Lion King III, Mulan II and Mulan III are all in "various stages of development."And Disney TV's Cinderella II: Dreams Come True and The Hunchback of Notre Dame II hit video store shelves on February 26 and March 19.
Never Land is a sequel to the 1953 classic adaptation of Peter Pan, and it is gaining praise for its remarkable similarities to the original, especially in its near-perfect voice matches. Will kids mind the awkward blend of traditional and computer animation, or the cheesy pop songs? Apparently not.
Steven D. Greydanus (Decent Films) notes that the story'
s central theme is not the need for parents, an issue that gave weight to the original. Instead, it focuses on the power of imagination. "Something's been lost," he says, "a darker undercurrent that ran through J. M. Barrie's original play and novel and was discernible even in the Disney version." Nevertheless, "It's still entertaining enough, with fast-paced excitement and colorful imagery that children will enjoy, and a sweetly nostalgic spirit that will appeal to parents. The writing is sharp if unambitious, the animation and voice work nicely evocative of the original, and there are clever touches here and there."
Phil Boatwright concludes, "It's not a great film, but a solid one, with a positive statement about faith at its core."
Jesse Florea (Focus on the Family) finds the pros outweigh the cons: "
All around me in the theater, children were yelling at the screen to root on familiar characters, while softly sniffling moms wiped away a few tears in their eyes. It'
s obvious why Disney never said never again to Never Land."
Movieguide's critics, who worked overtime to condemn the magical, flying children in Harry Potter, applaud Never Land's magical, flying heroes. Lisa and Sarah Rice call it "
a work of outstanding animation. The Peter Pan story is great, and this movie will, indeed, make you want to fly. The story is tight, the characterizations are very good, and the good lessons in the story are rampant."