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November 2004

By Wilson Morales

Distributor: Miramax Films
Director: Marc Forster
Producers: Richard N. Gladstein & Nellie Bellflower
Screenwriter: David Magee, based on the play "The Man Who Was Peter Pan" by Allan Knee
Director of Photography: Roberto Schaeffer
Composer: Jan A.P Kaczmarek
Cast: Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet, Julie Christie, Radha Mitchell, Freddie Highmore, & Dustin Hoffman
Screened at: Loews 34th, NYC




A year ago, Universal Pictures released "Peter Pan", a whimsical tale of adventure and mystery that didn't resonate with children as well as the box office. Miramax Films, hoping to avoid the same response from the audience, carefully held back their film, which tells a different story of Peter Pan. The maneuver is one of the best decisions the studio has made. Johnny Depp, coming off "Secret Window" and "Pirates of the Caribbean", which earned him an Academy nomination for Best Actor, has vaulted to the top of his class as the one of the best actors of his generation. Now that Sean Penn has won his Oscar, it's now time to hand one over to Johnny. Depp is at his best when he plays colorful characters, and with the role of J.M Barrie, he relishes it with energy and the level of eccentricity that he has brought to his other film. "Finding Neverland" is full of wit, emotion, adventure, and mystery that will inspire all ages to come see why and how Peter Pan was born. Inspired by true events, "Finding Neverland" is one the year's best films.

J.M Barrie (Depp) is a London playwright whose latest creation for the theater has just bombed and his producer Charles Frohman wants him to keep looking for a successful material that gets him a profitable production. While his wife Mary Ansell Barrie (Mitchell) keeps her distant from J.M as their marriage is imploding, J.M Barie finds his inspiration from a bunch of kids while walking his dog in the park. The four boys he encounters are the sons of Sylvia Davies, a widow. Through tales of adventures and magic, the boys are quickly taken with their new friend, except for young Peter (Highmore). Peter doesn't believe in fairy tales as he is still not over the loss of his father.

Using Peter as his source, J.M starts writing his next play, but this time, he plans on doing something that has never been done in the theater before, adding to Frohman's chagrin. As J.M continues to visit the children and engross himself in their lives, Sylvia's health is suddenly at risk as she begins to get weak and young Peter sees what's developing, yet no one will say anything. At the same time, Sylvia's mother, Mrs. Du Maurier, doesn't like the fact that a married man is spending so much time with her beautiful and available daughter. Nevertheless, Barrie puts on the production of "Peter Pan", while extending an invitation for young children to attend. The play went to on to become a classic.

Director Marc Foster has taken a great deal of liberties to tell the tale of the J.M Barrie and his love for children. The truth of the matter is that at the time, Barrie was perceived to be the Michael Jackson of his era, because of his oddities. Still, Forster has presented a tear-jerker that will capture the hearts of many. It's delightful and touching and very emotional. Depp is wonderful as the playwright who finds that time can be still so long as you can stop dreaming. Winslet's Sylvie is an excellent compliment to Depp's Barrie. She represents the real world and yet keeps a little imagination for the sake of her children's happiness. The scene-stealer in the film has to be Freddie Highmore, who plays young Peter. Highmore's acting and facial expression displays the emotions that this film needs. His attitude is the catalyst for the legend we know of. The score by Jan A.P Kaczmarek has a fantastic emotional score that says a lot of the emotion being held by the characters. If you want to more about Barrie and what really occurred during his life, I suggest to hit the library, but "Finding Neverland" is a fine attraction filled with excitement and amazing performances.