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Peter Pan

IT IS a film so loaded with visual splendour that even when there are aspects that would seem questionable, it is gorgeous to behold. It is kind of hard to tell at whom this new version of J.M. Barrie's work is aimed.

If it is for children, then it should have only magic and wonder. But what happens when there are some dark overtones of violence and some adult-like behaviour, considering one of the main characters in the story is a 12-year old. And where there is a subtle play on relationships and equations?

This does not seem a watered down kiddies cartoonish Peter Pan — about a person who refuses to grow up. The character being played by a young teenage boy (Jeremy Sumpter) emerges when the film begins with John and Michael Darling being entertained by elder sister Wendy Darling (Rachel Hurd - Wood) with her superb tall adventure tales, populated by pirates and the like. And one is the particularly black hearted — Captian Hook (Jason Issacs).

Unknown to her, there is a silent stranger, Peter Pan, who wants to hear more of the tales, especially those with happy endings.

But then one day after a particularly disastrous day at work, Wendy's father is firm that she must now stop spinning yarns and behave more like a lady. The same night Peter's shadow and Tinker Bell (Ludivine Sagnier) get trapped in the Darling household. After great efforts to drag back the unrepentant shadow, Peter's existence is made known to the children and then he convinces them to fly with him to Neverland — where no one grows up and where there are no adults to listen to. So they go, flying over rooftops through clouds and the stars, galaxies and racing meteors to the magical land of greens, blues and yellows.

Columbia Pictures/Revolution Studios/Universal Pictures' "Peter Pan" leaps out of the screen with its surreal surroundings mixing muted landscapes with glorious foliages and skyscape. A wonderful palette that could be utterly delightful to kids and adults alike.

The film generally looks good and features a lot of swashbuckling action, but there are some things that you would have your doubts about.

Some scenes run too long and if it is meant for kids, Hook comes across as rather violent, randomly killing members of his crew for minor trespasses.

Sweet looking Tinker Bell is riddled with jealously and malice. But at the end of it all, what emerges is that pirates are vicious killers, kids can be awfully mean, running away does not solve problems and that if you don't believe in fairies, they just droop and die. That is what the film, directed and written by P. J. Hogan, is really about.

It is just that, letting a young boy play the main protagonist, has added a whole new dimension to an age-old tale that has hitherto been mostly in the form of animation and cartoons.

CHITRA MAHESH

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