With the popularization of the term “hate-watch” has come a misconception that if you watch something, and don’t like it, you therefore are a hate-watching hater who hates. That is reductive; most of the time, people are just watching, period, and came away with a negative opinion. In fact, as with The Sound of Music Live, I went into this really wanting it to be great, because I LOVE that NBC is building an event around earnest musical theater on this national scale, and I would love for it to survive as an annual tradition. But I just didn’t think this was a very good production, and it’s not because I’m a Hater or anything so trendily tossed-around as that. It’s partly the performances, and partly a huge realization that I had just recently: Peter Pan itself isn’t very good. In fact, like Peter itself, once you grow up you simply can’t look at it the same way.
But first, I need to point out something from the poster, which is that Allison Williams as a boy is basically actor Armie Hammer. Exhibit A:[photoembed id="1057046" size="two_thirds" alignment="center" text=""] “I don’t NAB, I don’t NAB, I don’t NAAAAAB.”
And Exhibit B:[photoembed id="1057048" size="two_thirds" alignment="center" text=""] “Hey girl, will YOU be my mother?”
Within the last year, I got excited to show my kids the Disney Peter Pan because I remember — in that vague, gauzy way — that I adored it in my own youth. I also couldn’t have told you the last time I actually SAW it, though, and as we sat down to watch, I was reminded of a few unpleasant things. One, that it’s so slow. Glacially slow. It makes global warming feel like a 100-yard dash. There is SO MUCH blah-blah, and then suddenly you’re in Neverland and then the second thing rears its head: HOLY GOD THE RACISM. NBC hired a Native American consultant who helped them reshape the songs for Tiger Lily and her friends, who are still tribal (though with a Polynesian flair, whether or not that was intentional) but are no longer treated as stereotypes. Smart of them to deal with that head-on instead of taking a Dan Snyder/Washington Football Team approach.
So through adult eyes, it struck me how basically this is a story about a weird old dude who’s hot for murdering children, and a woman who has a terrible adventure with a manchild and then willingly pimps out her own daughter (and, in her professed fantasy, generations of her female progeny) to the same manchild. It’s… not great, Bob. As an adult it’s hard to — as Allison Williams asked — put in your childhood eyeballs and see it that way, and even if we tried, we’d have been bored by the half-hour-plus it took to even GET to the damn flying.
I’ve not seen the musical itself (or if I have, it was a long time ago), so I don’t know if the stage show suffers the same way this did. Peter Pan Live never gets any momentum, even from the few performances that have zip, which I blame in part on the decision to spread it across three hours – granted, it IS long — and pepper it with all those commercial breaks (a business necessity, but still). Worse, this means the plot stops making sense. What you can track doesn’t really hit you, and what you can’t is usually because lines were delivered in a throwaway manner or trims made it suffer. They heavily edited down Tinkerbell, in a way that gave her character little point and no endearing nor enduring value. She’s just a twinkly device who sounded like an iPhone. Tiger Lily doesn’t connect, either, and in the end the only emotional moment that hits is when Wendy and her mother wistfully sing an unwitting duet about missing each other. And although Allison Williams has a lovely voice and does fine in a REALLY technically challenging role for which I applaud her moxie, she lacks the boyish charisma and charm to play a kid who could win the hearts of all and sundry and have them literally follow him to the ends of the earth (and into battle, and nearly down the plank). When her Peter sings “I Gotta Crow” about how awesome he is, all you think is, “Oh, pipe down, Pan, you inflated blouse.”
In fact, the completely spaced-out stylings of Christopher Walken are what saved it. He HIMSELF sleepwalks through half his scenes, but the result is the only part of the production that has any compelling entertainment value. It’s the only part that moves. I had to watch this entire sucker three times — once live, once to get screen grabs, and then because the beans caught me grabbing a photo and made me start at the beginning — and by the end of the final pass, I was actually grateful to Walken for bringing such a completely random, fluctuating, and indiscriminate amount of cowbell to his scenes. Sometimes it’s tons, sometimes it’s none, sometimes it’s in the middle, but the mystery as to what you’ll get certainly keeps your attention. Fug Husband Kevin told me that he read once about how Christopher Walken takes every script he gets and re-punctuates it to infuse it with maximum Essence of Walken, and I COMPLETELY believe that here in this particularly batshit clip from the end (no ads, I promise):
Apologies for the quality, but I recorded it with my phone. I couldn’t get it on Hulu and YOU HAD TO SEE the awful genius WTFery of “FAME FAME.” It’s like his speech was formatted by Gertrude Stein.
Now, let’s get to the nitty-gritty. The first thing you need to know is that John Darling is basically Harry Potter with nice foster parents.[photoembed id="1056983" size="two_thirds" alignment="center" text=""] “So Neverland DOESN’T have evil wizards who live in people’s turbans? SOLD!”
He and Michael are adorable, and they like dancing around the bedroom with Wendy and listening to bedtime fairy-tales. It’s right here that Jessica and I did say to each other how lovely it is to see something that’s unabashedly earnest. That feeling only carried us through the next thirty seconds, but whatever. We had it. We’re not dead inside.
Christian Borle stomped in as Mr. Darling, and I was startled to discover — as I love Borle and think he’s compulsively watchable, normally — that he was really awful in this bit. Mr. Darling’s character is a tough one to wrap your arms around; is he a complete crab, like Mr. Banks in Mary Poppins, or is he telling arch jokes through a gruff exterior? Borle, weirdly, tries to play it both ways, and it doesn’t work. As an aside, between this and Poppins, English fathers from this era get a tough rap in movies and literature. He and Mr. Banks clearly have the same rod up their behinds (and so does Mary; watch THAT movie again as an adult and you’ll be annoyed that she brings all this magic into the Banks house and the kids’ lives, and then gets snippy and eye-rolly anytime the kids want to ENJOY or USE any of it, like, PUT IT AWAY THEN, TEMPTRESS). There’s also a lot of talk about how crappy The Servants are at cleaning and staying awake. You and your Champagne problems may SNUFF IT, Sir.
Mrs. Darling’s dress is very pretty, though. This whole opening scene is, rivetingly, all about whether she can do up Mr. Banks’ bow tie, and it is her only bit of stage business for what feels like FOREVER.
Crabiolo up there also seems to think the dog nurse — Nana — should go outside for the night. THEN DON’T HIRE A DOG AS A NANNY. Also, I don’t think you get to be Captain Fun Killer — don’t make noise, don’t get up in my business — if you use a canine nurse like it’s frigging Passions up in this joint.
And yes, Harry, your mother is still fussing with the bow tie.[photoembed id="1056987" size="two_thirds" alignment="center" text=""] “Have you tried waving a stick and saying Reparo? No?”
In fact, she fusses ALL THE WAY INTO THE HALLWAY with it:
At which point she suggests that they should let the dog sleep in the nursery because she’s seen a boy lurking outside their third-floor window, and that his shadow got caught and she tucked it away in a drawer for safe-keeping. Mr. Darling quite reasonably suggests she’s been at the sherry again. I’d like to point out that Mrs. Darling seems way LESS concerned with Floating Spectral Child than most people might, and Mr. Darling does not seem at all concerned that his wife believes there to be a tangible shadow in the dresser — nor even that she KEPT IT rather than putting Levitating Peeping Tom’s hosiery in the rubbish. He just thinks it’s quaint that she’s hallucinating and insane and possibly hammered, but he’d really prefer it didn’t get int he way of their dinner at The Club. That Banks fellow is due to show up, and he’s got the most rip-roaring stories about his wife’s absurd suffrage campaigns. And Mrs. Darling doesn’t think to say, “You don’t believe me, you greasy old codfish? WELL THEN I’LL SHOW IT TO YOU. IT’S BOY-SHAPED HANES.”
It’s here that Tony-nominee Kelli O’Hara — who does a really wonderful rendition of “Tender Shepherd” — really visually reminds me of Audra McDonald crossed with Megan Hilty. She is the production’s high point, and apparently, early next year she’s playing Anna opposite Ken Watanabe in Broadway’s The King and I revival, so… go see her, if you’re in New York. She was exquisite in this, which I belabor also because I read on Laura Benanti’s Twitter (it was something she replied to, not wrote herself) that she turned down this role because of her part in Nashville and I got sad that maybe Kelli would feel like she was in someone else’s part. She wasn’t. She owned it.
Meet Tinkerbell, a very small sparkly flashlight. Don’t get too attached.
The first time we see Allison is when Pan soars through the window in search of his shadow. There’s the whole bit about him trying to reattach it with soap, and Wendy hears him and asks if he’s crying, and he denies it rather defensively. I can never remember if he was supposed to be crying, but if he was, it didn’t happen here. Or didn’t register. Or anything. It was a bumpy moment.
And then the show does a thing where Peter gets to wander around the corridor and then throw open another window, so that they can light Allison Williams right up her nose and make her look like her own melted waxwork. So that… what, we’ll all be like, “Oh, yeah, TOTALLY A DUDE”? It seems a wee mean to your lead, NBC.
Allison’s Peter is very on-trend with his mesh shirt and his leggings, which are basically green versions of Martha Stewart’s beloved gold bike shorts. Peter Pan and Martha are actually quite similar. They both favor a kicky short hairdo, both like a little mischief, both have a crafting table. And, thanks to Wendy, a thimble.
And therein lies some of the problem. Much of the humor in this segment doesn’t land. Allison’s accent is — for the most part; there were some shaky bits early — very smooth and adept, but it’s also ripped straight from How Upper Is Your Crust?: Enunciation For Posh People. There is no roughness, no tumble, no grit, no sass. No real excitement, nor energy; no boyish cockiness; just chill, milquetoast pleasantness. “I’ve Gotta Crow” is really weak in this regard.
Wendy’s crush on Peter positively oozes out of Taylor Louderman, so that helps, but the problem is it’s all show and no telling. We have no idea WHY she’s drawn to him, because he’s kind of a boring dude. There’s no buzzy aura to him. He’s just a dude who dresses like Stefon from SNL, but without. having. everything.
There is also a stiffness to her movements at times, but I don’t blame her for that. The Sound of Music wasn’t as technically demanding, so Carrie Underwood could move a little easier, but if Allison missed any of her marks ten half the special effects would be wonkus. Like anytime Tinkerbell flew around her (okay, so like four times), and this:[photoembed id="1056994" size="two_thirds" alignment="center" text=""] “I call this ‘The Shadow Heisman.'”
Although granted a mark in the middle of the floor isn’t as hard to hit, but she had to flit around the whole room first. Which makes you wonder how Harry Potter and Michael slept through all this; methinks Mrs. Darling wasn’t JUST nipping into the sherry for her OWN medicinal use. Although frankly, Peter’s “Never Never Land” song — the only time, I believe, in which it’s referred to as anything other than Neverland — is kind of dull, so maybe it’s working like a lullaby. (Note: When the beans watched it, one of them turned to me and said, “When are those boys going to wake up?”) The Lady Pan makes Neverland sound about as exciting as playing Candyland and she’s weirdly intense about it, rather than playful.
Also, please step to the side for a sec and observe how many smaller matching area rugs are thrown over the larger area rug. I think the Darlings are hoarders.
Allison does muster some energy for the songs, though, and you can tell this is the part where she’s having fun because she used to play Peter Pan in her bedroom when she was a tot, or whatever. Her voice really is very pretty. I mean, this is not a Russell Crowe-as-Javert type situation here. She’s good. She’s just not right. She would have made an excellent Wendy. Not that Louderman needed replacing; she actually did a really nice job. I’m just talking in terms of casting. Allison didn’t bring the right mix of qualities to Peter Pan, but her innate sweetness and admirable pipes would’ve been a good fit in the Wendy role. Or maybe we can go back in time and make her Fraulein Maria and stick Underwood in as Pan and HA HA HA it would’ve improved The Sound of Music but then this would have been filed under SHITSHOW, EPIC. Because I cannot imagine a BIGGER miscast for Peter Pan than Carrie Underwood, and that’s not meant as an insult to her. She would agree with me.
But, whatever, because flying. TOOK YOU LONG ENOUGH. Although what I’d really like are some more scenes about neckwear. Where are those, please?[photoembed id="1057000" size="two_thirds" alignment="center" text=""] “You mean I can fly without getting broomstick splinters in my jumblies? Wicked!”
John and Michael are extremely excited to get right up in the nooks and crannies of their bedroom to see if Maid has done the proper dusting. (It’s actually very cute, because they go through turns saying their happy thing that will help them fly, and Michael’s is always the same: candy. But delivered in an increasingly ecstatic, yearning way, until finally he upgrades it to “Christmas” and launches into the air. He’s adorable and he sells it.) They also adjust very well to waking up and finding a random boy hopping around their bedroom, while their sister pants that they’re all running away to a place called Neverland where there are lots of colors and some mermaids. You’d think Harry would be like, “I’ve learnt a few things about trusting strangers who can fly without brooms.”[photoembed id="1057001" size="two_thirds" alignment="center" text=""] “MUCH cleaner than Floo Powder.”
But, no. He’s on Team Neverland. So the three Darlings decide to ditch their parents in favor of Peter’s frat house, which Allison explains is located by both “following the golden arrows” and going “second to the right and straight on ’til morning,” suggesting that perhaps she accidentally omitted the word “star.” And if Harry hadn’t given up and just Apparated all of them there, they’d have gone for the second smokestack to the right and been TOTALLY lost.
The adventure begins. And, as I said on Twitter, what follows proves the truth of that old sage Jack Donaghy: Never go with a hippie to a second location.
And now we get to the magic: Captain Hook.
Hook is… really bored. He totally has a fever, and the prescription is more cowbell. I give this effort only about one cowbell. In fact:
It also reminds me of a discussion Kevin and I had once about how freaked out the studio execs must have been when the first Pirates of the Caribbean dailies came in, because there is no way they expected THAT Jack Sparrow, and they just had to take deep breaths and hope it came together in the edit. Granted, when NBC hired Christopher Walken, it had to know he’d play it like he was in a fugue state half the time and reading lines off something the rest of the way. They got it. He’s one part Jack Sparrow, one part The Insidious Doctor Fu Manchu.
He ticks up half a cowbell for making eye contact with something other than the floor.
This Hook also does a lot more gyrating and thrusting than I expected. Walken is a trained dancer, as anyone who remembers the Fatboy Slim video can tell you (because that was the first time half the world realized it), and from the knees down he can still be very graceful at times. Other times, he just sort of leans side to side.
Are you even looking at ANYTHNG, Captain?
He does at least get it up a bit for his velvet recliner. Unfortunately, giving Captain Hook a gilded La-Z-Boy doesn’t do much to negate the perception that Walken is also a bit old for this. I mean, it’s a bit unseemly for a 71-year old pirate to be so obsessed with killing “Lost Boys” who are generally supposed to be kids that never grew up — and I don’t buy that it’s just EMOTIONAL aging because Peter does no physical aging at all, so shouldn’t it be both? — and you start to think he should’ve retired and handed it all over to a new Dread Pirate Hook.
YES. Jazz hands are as good a cowbell for this particular ennui.
He also seems rather excited for this phallic imagery. In hour 1 of a children’s musical. NBC lets him straddle the cannon and raise it high between his legs, but cuts away for the actual firing of it, because no, it’s not at ALL suggestive otherwise.
And now, the Lost Boys.
I have to paraphrase myself on Twitter here because I can’t think of another way to say it: Apparently Neverland is little more than a Sandra Lee tablescape writ large. The Lost Boys are of a median age of 27, often burly, and all wear bastardized prep-school uniforms. [On Twitter, Fug National @lethallyfab aptly called them “a fantasy Abercrombie rugby team.”] Is this meant to be a nod to what they were wearing when they got “lost”? Because by Peter’s definition IN THIS VERY PRODUCTION, the Lost Boys all fell out of their buggies when their nannies weren’t looking — so, they were babies — and if they went a week unclaimed, they went to Neverland. (A Fug National Tweeted that in the book, it’s implied that when they start to show signs of growing up, Peter “thinned the herd himself,” as in, MUUURDER, which is INCREDIBLY ALARMING.) This is all SORTS of contradictory, because… like, DO they physically age, then? If so, why doesn’t Peter? But if they do, where are they getting their posh outfits that in some cases match? Are they making them on their own, and they just aren’t good enough with a needle and thread to make pockets (which is Peter’s obsession)? I do need to note that the costumer appears to have removed ALL TRACES of pockets from any coats, and made pants that have none, so that was thorough. I thought for sure that these elderly lost gentlemen, who look like a cross between Bill Belichick and a Barbershop Quartet, would get busted on having at least two pockets between them.
But yeah. The aging thing… Hook is pretty old, y’all. So are his pirates. Why is Peter the only one whose hormones don’t work? Or are they supposed to be runaway boys? In which case, why the backstory implying they’re all freaking infants? I have notes, Sir J.M. Barrie and the NBC team. One of which is that Neverland looks like the WORST frat party.[photoembed id="1057071" size="two_thirds" alignment="center" text=""] Hazing is a real problem at Alpha Sigma Manchild
And then of course there’s a dance sequence that, we decided, seems to have been added in place of something that was racist. Because SO MUCH of it was racist. Seriously. The Disney one is so awkward. I was terrified that the beans, who frequently quote dialogue they’ve only heard once, were going to turn up at school merrily saying the word “Injun” and singing this little ditty. We are seriously never watching that again.
Anyway, it’s all the All-New and Hopefully Inoffensive Polynesian Native Types infiltrating the Lost Boys camp and messing with their heads, in a game of hide and seek. Except that there is no actual hiding. One of the beans turned to me and said, “Are they supposed to be blind?” Good question. I mean, they ARE all like thirty-five without ever having had an eye exam, so it’s possible.[photoembed id="1057011" size="two_thirds" alignment="center" text=""] And starring The Band Perry as Hook’s pirates.
You’d think Hook would enjoy this more. He DID request the pink umbrella in the previous scene. Then again, his blase, narcoleptic affect is also somewhat hilarious in this context. I just can’t tell if it was on purpose. Although there IS a point in this production in which Jessica and I wondered if Christopher Walken’s entire theme for his performance was, “Whatever.”
Christian Borle, by the way, resurfaces to play Smee. Nobody seems to comment on his resemblance to Mr. Darling, a la the Oz denizens looking like Kansans, so I guess it’s not supposed to matter (and in fact I don’t know how many other productions even have the same actor in both parts). He is not great as Smee, either, but I wonder if that’s because he’s having to overcompensate for playing opposite a very woozy mustachioed lamppost. Now, #NoDisrespectToBenAffleck, but the whole Internet was roaring about The Christian Borle Gun Show, and my reaction was that they are very nice, but they’ve got nothing on Sports Guns. But I knew you’d at least want to see them. Or Smee them. HAR. There is also an extremely weird scene when Hook finds the secret lair of the Lost Boys by sitting on a mushroom that’s actually a chimney, and Walken plays it like it’s an erotic experience. A two-cowbell erotic experience, but erotic nonetheless. He shimmies off it rather than actually catching on fire, all, “Oooh, HOT.”
Then Hook does a tango with Smee, while singing about how he’s going to kill Peter Pan and spill a bunch of blood, and stuff — all of Hook’s songs are basically about how he wants to murder — and he could not look less thrilled by this, even though he is the one who requested the rhythm. Borle goes into full prance mode for this, and Walken is like, “Yeah, whatever, love the one you’re with. Where is the Aerosmith fan club?”[photoembed id="1057015" size="two_thirds" alignment="center" text=""] “Thigh-ay, Cap’n.”
Neither one of them is bringing a lot of oomph to this demi-mounting.
However, I laugh out loud every time I see that shot.
And this one. He veered from looking semi-committed to being TOTALLY OVER having a grabby bunch of scalawags worship at his altar. But it’s entirely possible that all of Christopher Walken’s strength was being used to keep his facial muscles in check for his ticking nemesis’s first appearance:[photoembed id="1057018" size="two_thirds" alignment="center" text=""] It’s Tick-Tock Croc du Soleil.
Needless to say, this totally fails to create any actual sense that Captain Hook has a creature that wants to eat him. It just looks like he overspent on balloons at Party City.
Tink does tell the Lost Boys to shoot the Wendy Bird to make Peter Pan happy, and they do, because they’re sheeple. And at this point, it’s been going on so long, and the Tinkerbell stuff flopped enough, that you’re like, “Wait, why is Tinkerbell an asshat?”[photoembed id="1057020" size="two_thirds" alignment="center" text=""] “Heh heh. Ten points to Slytherin.”
Wendy doesn’t die, obviously, because that would be too timely of a lesson about flying out your window with some strange kid who sprinkles hallucinogens on your face. The arrow pierces the trinket Peter gave her because he thinks that’s what kisses are, and then Peter and his impotent fury swear to rain blows across the face of the culprit:
Seriously, what is that pose? Threat jazzercize?
It’s here that Peter reveals his cunning plan: Wendy is going to be their mother. Did anyone ask Wendy if she wanted to be fourteen with a dozen children over 27? I guess at least she got to do it without the stretch marks. The Lost Boys are all, “Mother?!?” Because they’re Ruprecht. They’re all Ruprecht. They love to run, and run, and run (they would LOVE Oklahoma), and they want a mother, and they probably need corks on their forks and have mostly undescended testicles.
And then Peter has a whole limp speech about how great it’s going to be. Honestly, look at Peter. Would anyone really follow him into battle? I wouldn’t even follow him to the local coffee house, except MAYBE to see if he had any drippy poetry he planned to read at open-mic night.
Peter insists that Wendy won’t be their mother if they don’t clean up their messy. disorderly hideout — as he looks around his immaculate, spotless hideout — and then frets that Wendy is used to order. Peter, Wendy lives in a house with a DOG NANNY. SHE CAN DEAL.
Poor Wendy. She is so easy. Never in history, possibly outside a Greek play, has a woman been convinced to stay because the object of her desire wants her to be HIS MOTHER.
But they give her a swing and flowers and that’s all it takes to convince her that she should bug out on her poor parents. Never mind that there’s one communal bathtub with no curtain. She DOES also demand that Peter be the kids’ “father,” which… this is really all going to make her therapist very wealthy someday.
This bit was funny, though, and well-performed by Taylor Louderman. The boys want to know the endings to all the stories Peter has relayed to them, from when he’d go listen outside Wendy’s window. So they ask about Cinderella, and Wendy sighs dreamily and says that the show fits, and then… PAUSE… and the look on her face seriously says, “BOOTY TIME.” But she concludes with, “They all live happily ever after.” Ditto Sleeping Beauty. Then one of the boys pipes up, “And the end to Hamlet?” And Wendy bites her lip and is all, “Umm…. he died. And Polonius… died. And Ophelia… died, and his father died, and…” It’s nicely done by her — she finds a different way each time to convey what an awkward bummer this is — and I giggled.
And then everyone pretends to take a communal bath…? Sure. Note: Some of them might want to take ACTUAL baths. If age is suspended in Neverland, perhaps body odor is also.
WAKE UP, WALKEN. I seriously think he might have missed a couple lines here and there, and that Christian Borle’s wide eyes are an attempt to BEAM his words to him psychically.[photoembed id="1056933" size="two_thirds" alignment="center" text=""] “Can we get a B12 shot for this fool during the break?”
Eggplant Pirate is throwing some serious Hook shade here, and rightly. There is no sass to Hook’s slash. There is no jazz-hook. No spirit fingers on the one hand that could do them. Sparky Polastri would roll over in his grave, because he’d be dead if he were in Neverland. I just don’t think he would last very long in that environment.
Three bells are because Walken kind of HALFWAY commits to this joke. Here’s the deal: He holds one high note for a really, really, really ridiculously long time…
… and the camera pulls back and they cut to commercial…
… and then in the middle of the commercial break, they pop back for a sec and he’s still doing it even though all the other pirates are gone and somebody is swabbing the deck around him.
He actually looks like he’s enjoying the gag. Now, I guess some people were complaining today that they thought Walken was lip-synching. And honestly, if he did at any other point than this… I would be surprised, because he didn’t sound good enough for me to think he was mouthing along to anything pre-recorded. But he CLEARLY did it here, and he was SUPPOSED to, wasn’t he? It was all in service of the joke that he was holding this note for an inhuman amount of time. I think the fact that he lip-synched and it was totally OBVIOUS is actually what made it funny. He did fumble it, though. I clipped the relevant piece to show you (via Hulu; if an ad shows, it’s theirs, not ours). What happens is, he had been chanting along with all the other pirates and then there’s a point where he was supposed to go up and start the note, and he misses it. So you can HEAR the note already, but you SEE that he’s still spinning around flapping his mouth.
I say, who cares. It’s in keeping with the low average level of cowbell we’ve had so far, but also in my opinion sells that it’s a deliberately silly gag rather than a demonstration of a person’s prowess. It doesn’t even sound like his VOICE. WHOOO CAAAARES. It was one of about three laughs I got all night, or at least, intentional laughs.
So, Peter Pantywaist now gets to blah blah blah about how Wendy is trying to make them all do some school, and book-learnin’ and such, and BORING. I’d like to point out that perhaps if he ever read something, or learned, Captain Hook would be defeated by now. I mean, he could have read a little book called Peter Pan for advice.
And then I turn into the crabapple I become when I watch Rent, and those fools dance around whining about how they’re not gonna pay it (JUST PAY IT, PEOPLE, WE LIVE IN A SOCIETY). Peter stomps around insisting he’s not going to grow up, ever, waaah, do your homework kids. Allison has some fun with it, but a lot of the time it comes off as gentle and teasing rather than as peacocking — that plagues her throughout — and it almost DOES have a Fraulein Maria vibe. (Partly because the accent really is SO posh.)
And then the frat party gets weird.[photoembed id="1056940" size="two_thirds" alignment="center" text=""] The first rule of Beta Zeta Bodysuit is, don’t ask when we launder our bodysuits.
Someone clearly sent Tiger Lily a VHS tape of the 2000 Grammys, because she is performing some serious J.Lo science here:
It’s actually a blend of that J.Lo and today’s. SOMEONE finds a way to get her Us Weekly. I bet she steals Smee’s from the postal worker.
This is the bit where Tiger Lily comes to warn Peter that Hook plans to blow up Neverland, and Peter doesn’t bother to listen to her because Peter is a horrid little child. Wendy and Tiger Lily get all snippy with each other, even though Tiger Lily’s group is still sort of antagonizing/antagonized by Peter’s; they’re competing to be the one he listens to, which is odd, because I don’t know if we’re supposed to think Tiger Lily is hot for The Boy Who Hasn’t Been Through Puberty Yet Because Otherwise He’d Have Stubble. Why WOULD she be? He’s so rude to her (CHILDREN, TAKE NOTE, HE IS NOT DREAMY). And unsurprisingly, this part of the plot doesn’t work that well, because none of it does. Everyone’s motivations are starting to unravel and become murky, because Peter Pan is about as threatening as a paper towel, has the seductive power of a My Little Pony, and couldn’t frighten the fog off Walken’s corneas. So it’s hard to figure out why anyone cares about him.
She is cute, though. There are moments where she really lets it fly, and again, I cannot imagine how hard this was — lots of pressure; lots more eyeballs than any given night on Broadway — and so as much as I am criticizing aspects of her performance, I also do want to give her a big hug. But let’s talk about Viagra.
No, really, I watched this on NBC.com’s app, and this commercial — the one with the bland, soothing British Lady Of Moderate Age telling you that it’s totes normal if you have osteoporosis of the wang — ran in EVERY BREAK. Because nothing makes you want to bang like a pirate trying to stab a boy who can fly.
Okay, so, with apologies, I am going to pick on her again. Here, Pan is taking Wendy on a boat trip to teach her about how dangerous Neverland is (GREAT idea), and Peter tells her all about the great battles that have taken place here and all the blood that was spilled by sword (wuh) and Allison Williams sounds mad perky, as if she’s describing a really exciting plan to build a mall. It’s that kind of stuff that made it a miss of a performance — no bravado, no bluster, just Extreme Chill mixed with Gee Whiz. Half the reason the humor didn’t work is because she didn’t get under and around the character. There’s one point where she calls Hook a “billowing bilgerat,” or something, but I honestly couldn’t tell you because it was SUPPOSED to be a big exclamation but she delivered it to her shoulder, quietly, in crisp and plummy tones. Her Peter Pan feels more like a very nice dinner guest than a thorn in Hook’s side.[photoembed id="1056945" size="two_thirds" alignment="center" text=""] “Say your line say your line get it right pls get it right thx”
Look at Walken up there. At least committing to SOMETHING, even if it’s a WEIRD thing. In this bit, Pan rescues a captured Tiger Lily by tricking Smee into thinking he’s Captain Hook off in the distance — for which they have Allison Williams speaking into a conch shell, and they use Walken’s actual pre-recorded voice. Then, once Hook arrives, Pan pretends to be Hook while speaking TO Hook, and Hook is all, “If you’re Hook, then WHO AM I?” And I don’t understand why they don’t use Walken’s voice for this part ALSO. Instead, it’s just Allison Williams tricking him by sounding… like Allison Williams. And Walken plays it like Hook is all dreamy and meditative about it, right on through the moment where he figures out it’s Peter, which makes for an EXTREMELY flaccid moment indeed because he’s like, “Oh, who are you, hmm, are you a man, are you a boy, hmm, have you a name, hmmmmmm.” But then suddenly:
At least he woke up?
Unfortunately, this next bit is terrible. It’s the first of two confrontations between Hook and Pan, and Peter doesn’t come of as ANY kind of actual danger to anyone except himself, and Hook just sort of wobbles his sword around drunkenly. They turn their backs on each other at close range — like this — multiple times and then Peter lightly bumps into Hook’s shoulder and suddenly we’re to think he is maybe mortally wounded? And instead of finishing him off, Hook just… leaves. Oh, well, actually, never mind, I know why:[photoembed id="1056949" size="two_thirds" alignment="center" text=""] Excuse me, do you have any Grey Poupon?
Yes, best run away from the party balloon, lest it pop and infuse you with its Helium. They steal Peter’s dinghy and leave him alone to DIE from his non-bleeding mortal scrape on his arm.
Wendy doesn’t want to leave a wounded Peter, but he insists it’s too dangerous for her to stay, and he can’t fly home. Then Michael’s lost kite (what?) drifts past like magic to take them home, but it can only carry one of them (huh) and I guess Wendy can’t fly anymore (hmm) so she takes the kite. But before she does, she tells Peter that in case he bleeds out all over this fancy rock, she just wants him to know that Neverland has been really wonderful and she’s so thrilled she came. REALLY. Your fake-boyfriend is maybe about to DIE ON YOU and some murderous pirates want to blow up the island and lay waste to you all, AND you’ve been forced to run around after a baker’s dozen of twentysomethings who ignore everything you ask them to do, and you’re GLAD YOU CAME? Ugh.
Wendy has the worst time. She gets shot, she has to parent 35 kids she didn’t ask for, and she falls for an emotionally distant manchild. -J — Heather & Jessica (@fuggirls) December 5, 2014
Wendy is totally going to be the girl who pretends she’s into hiking and veganism and jazz on Sundays, just to keep some drippy man. Of course, she might have been heaping praise on Neverland to sweeten him up for a proper kiss, because she totally goes for one. Oh, Wendy. Mr. Darling does say earlier in the episode that flattery gets a person everywhere. Wendy must have been listening.
During another commercial break, Hook drifts by pretending to sing the same note again, and yes, I laughed again, even though it makes no sense.
You’ll be pleased to know that Peter’s near-fatal wound is a total non-factor now. Tiger Lily rescued him and they came home together to unite their two tribes. “Peter Pan is the SUN and the MOON and the STARS,” Tiger Lily flagrantly lies, while Horatio Eyeliner up there ocularly bones the crush out of her.
Peter is all, “Yep, I know, I’m great, moving on.” And we get a new tribal musical number to replace all the awful stuff, although it’s not very good.[photoembed id="1057083" size="two_thirds" alignment="center" text=""] “Malfoy cannot find out about this.”
Welcome to next season’s Tom Ford fashion show.
As Wendy puts the Lost Boys to bed, she sings “Distant Melody,” and we cross-cut with Mrs. Darling doing the same. You should watch, courtesy again of Hulu (any ads are theirs):
It’s FINALLY another genuinely emotional moment. You feel Wendy being pulled back to reality, and you feel her mother’s longing and heartbreak, and their voices mesh beautifully. It’s just fantastic — the only true heartstring-plucking I had here, except when they actually do go back home.[photoembed id="1057089" size="two_thirds" alignment="center" text=""] “These Hufflepuffs are the WORST. I miss Muggles.”
Harry and Michael and Wendy decide it’s time to return to Little Whingeing, and convince all the Lost Boys to come, too, because the Darlings can adopt them. Which is so easy. How are the Darlings going to explain a sudden dozen children, some of whom are their physical contemporaries? Wendy has the worst ideas. NEVER ask her for guidance on anything. She would be like, “Why don’t we RUN with those scissors?!?”
Marnie Pan’s reaction to everyone leaving is, “Okay, cool, good luck.” No, seriously. It is. GRIPPING.
However, while Peter sings his Heartfelt Ditty about how he DID once go looking for his mother and she broke his heart — by having another child — we get a look at the top-notch Neverland dental and tooth-whitening services. Apparently the Lost Boys Union has GREAT benefits. We’re supposed to feel sorry for Peter that he felt like his parents forgot him, but mostly you just want him to stop whining, because he’s not terribly interesting.
Next up: a plot change. In the version I remember, Tinkerbell does something to get Wendy killed, but in the BOOK I believe Tink leads Hook to Pan’s hideout, because she thinks he wants to take away Wendy. When she realizes her mistake, she drinks the poison Hook leaves for Peter, as a way of saving his life. In THIS version, Wendy just yaps at Peter to take his medicine for his stab wound, and then Hook sneaks inside and poisons it; Peter doesn’t believe her, so she drinks it to make a point, and Allison Williams is all, “Aw, you WERE telling the truth,” with all the emotional impact of someone saying, “Aw, I forgot to run the dishwasher and now I have to hand-wash a butter knife.”
So, you know, with all that and the dumb #SaveTinkerbell hashtag, I didn’t really give a shit what happened to her because we barely saw her at all. But my cold dead heart grew three sizes while I was typing this, because the beans saw that part and started clapping enthusiastically to save her life and seemed pleased with the result. So for the intended audience, it worked. Hook, meanwhile, tricks everyone and captures them and strings them up in a net on his ship. He smells victory. Which is when we get to the scene I showed you earlier, where he’s all “I SPLIT MY INFINITIVES FAME FAME.” I really hope you watched that. It was… something.
So Peter awkwardly climbs up out of the lair and announces it’s time to save everyone, while seeming nervous and also about as committed to the idea as if it were “go make some hot chocolate and do a needlepoint.” He’s singing to Tinkerbell, and you can see what I mean about the technical side of things, because poor Allison Williams has to guess a little at where the light is and in the scene it’s pretty clear she’s staring into empty space as the light dances off right of her eyeline. Oops.
Hook up there is talking about his enduring fame for being the man to take down Peter Pan, and Walken can’t muster up any genuine triumph? Oh, Walken. Somebody forgot his Red Bull IV drip between segments.
The phone is ringing. It’s Christopher Walken, delivering his performance via AT&T. He even stares at his feet during much of the tap-dancing. Actually, you might as well watch this.
And, credit where credit is due:
Driving brings out the bile in him.[photoembed id="1056962" size="two_thirds" alignment="center" text=""] “… Expelliarmus?”
The Lost Boys prepare to meet their doom, as Harry wonders if perhaps he shouldn’t have copied so much homework off Hermione.
Let it be known, also, that Wendy is now the Fitz of this program: the worst. When asked for “a mother’s last words” to the boys INCLUDING HER TWO BABY BROTHERS who are about to DIE BY THE HANDS OF PIRATES, she says, “Well, if you must die, die like gentlemen.”
NO BELLS FOR YOU. Hook really should have speared her and tossed her overboard right then and there. Also wouldn’t this be where you reprise either of the two lullabies from the show, which would probably make the pirates cry and lower their guards? Do I have to do everything? (Wait, I think that happens in Hook. I am CRIBBING FROM HOOK NOW. HOW IS HOOK BETTER THAN THIS? AND YET.)
I KNOW, Julia. It’s confounding.
Naturally, Pan saves the day, although he has to sort of clamber into position first because he’s terribly unsmooth. That mesh peplum must really hamper his suavitude.[photoembed id="1056965" size="two_thirds" alignment="center" text=""] “Why is it NEVER Peter Parker?”
No bells for you, either, Walken, for reacting to the timely arrival of your archnemesis by imagining how you would feel if someone offered you a glass of water.
There is then a mighty duel. I need to point out my confusion here: Earlier, Peter and Tiger Lily have snuck on board and hidden in Hook’s quarters. He sends Michael Park from As The World Turns (maroon vest, on the right) back to investigate, and you hear shrieking and screaming. Then he sends Cookie, the purple-shirt in the center here, back to see what happened to Michael. Same fate. After some chicanery, Hook goes back and looks for himself, and comes back trembling and shaking that they’ve been BRUTALLY KILLED. THEN HOW IS IT THAT THEY’RE FIGHTING IN THIS BATTLE SCENE MINUTES LATER? Did I miss something? I mean, I don’t really think Pan killed them, but what the heck did Hook see? Why am I analyzing this like it matters?[photoembed id="1056968" size="two_thirds" alignment="center" text=""] “One plus two… plus one… is…”
I actually don’t even rememeber what this is regarding (hearing the Croc du Soleil, I think), but it has 200 percent more feeling, at least, than the time Peter Pan showed up to ruin his shoddily laid plan.
Final battle: UNDERWHELMING, because Walken can barely wield a sword. They just sort of swat at each other and Pan flies around and then disarms him. It requires almost nothing of him, making me wonder why he hadn’t defeated him EONS ago. I thought there was something special about his time — that having Wendy and John and Michael there would matter, or something the Lost Boys did would matter, but no. Peter just decides to do it and then does and HOORAY an epic rivalry goes down not with a bang but with blue balls. And yet Tiger Lily is so stoked, she’s ready to have his children.
She totally has a fever, but I think the prescription for her is actual eyeglasses and a copy of Thor.[photoembed id="1056971" size="two_thirds" alignment="center" text=""] “NBD, I can catch up on House of Cards now.”
Poor Cookie back there is horrified — you are lucky to have your intestines in your body, sir — that Captain Hook has gone down in a fight, yet is acting like it’s just a zit he popped too early and he’ll have to live with the oozing welt for a week.
But, he revs up for the scene in which he pretends to consider returning Michael’s purloined teddy, then hurls it into the water. The beans were deeply concerned about the whereabouts of the teddy bear hereafter, and became convinced it would reappear in other pivotal moments, like when everyone decamps for London (“That’s where the bear went!”).
And, a snarl before Hook throws himself backward off the plank, with Croc du Soleil waiting. BUT WE DON’T SEE HIM EAT HOOK. I smell a sequel!
With Hook vanquished, it’s time for the Darlings and their merry band of squatters to fly to London.
I can’t lie: When Mrs. Darling’s back is turned and she’s singing “Tender Shepherd,” and suddenly she hears her children’s voices, I got a little misty. I blame the drink. And Kelli O’Hara. I don’t know, she just got me. Then Christian Borle runs in — they miss his entrance so he just shuffles into the shot with his back turned; I wonder if there was a costume-change issue that reesolved itself late — and he’s mumbling something about keeping the noise down, which is supposed to be a humorous callback to something he did earlier, but it reads terribly, and part of it is that they are never on his face so we don’t see whether he actually has FEELINGS in this important moment. But perhaps that’s because, oh, right, he just answered the door and let in a dozen dirty strangers from the Abercrombie & Ditch Academy.
Wendy announces that they must adopt the Lost Boys, who say they consider themselves brothers to the Darling children and that they promise not to be a nuisance or spend anyone’s money. “Excellent, then you’ll be contributing to the water bill?” Mr. Darling does not say, before he also does not disinherit Wendy and send everyone to the loony bin.
“What’s another dozen?” Mrs. Darling says, and Mr. Darling is like, “Fine, as long as you listen to me and give me some peace and quiet,” and they’re all like, “YAY, we can grow up now,” because that jerkpants makes it look SO MUCH FUN. Did Wendy warn anyone that her father is lame? It might have been important information to guide their decision. But maybe they read the book and know that Peter was about to gut them like fish anyway, so they just needed an escape.
As everyone leaves to go figure out where on earth twelve more people could sleep in this ENORMOUS PLACE WITH SERVANTS, Wendy goes to the window and looks wistfully out of it, because she has amnesia and thinks Neverland was fun, even though they all narrowly escaped death and never did anything even resembling fun. But at least she learned the great takeaway for adults: Don’t fall in love with an eternal manchild who even TELLS YOU he is an eternal manchild.
Also, a ring light makes its way into the shot. Unless that’s just the Starship Tinkerbell,who has figured out a way more stylish and less cardiovascularly challenging way to get around.
Minnie Driver shows up at the end and gives a truly gentle and warm and lovely performance as an adult Wendy Darling, still leaving her window open for Peter lo these many years later, because she has no regard for electric bills and I guess inherited her parents’ house and kicked out John and Michael. When Peter does in fact return, he is stunned to see that she’s grown up, because he and his forgetful manchild mind think it’s only been a day. There is some voice-over about how it’s impossible to tell how time renders in Neverland as compared with their world, but I’m confused: Wendy’s family acted like they were gone a good long while — even the VO implied that Mrs. Darling’s nightly ritual of turning down the beds had gone on rather longer than was mentally healthy — and yet the parents didn’t age a day. Now Peter has been gone twenty years and he thinks it was just an overnight? Wendy, if his memory is THAT bad, you were right to run.
Peter takes her maturation hard, even though he knew they were all going back to London to grow up, so I don’t know what his damage is. Maybe he should’ve come back sooner for his spring cleaning that Wendy once promised. That lair must be a shit heap by now. No WAY is Tiger Lily going in there for a nightcap. (Also, if Hook is old, will SHE be eventually? At what point will she stop waiting for a puberty to arrive for Peter that is clearly never in the cards? The march of estrogen waits for no boy.)
Oh, but cheer up, Peter, Wendy is going to pimp you out to her daughter. Who has heard all the stories, and has been given the kiss-totem to wear, and is super stoked for an adventure in Neverland because Wendy made it sound so magical. Yes. LIKE MAGICAL DEATH. I genuinely wonder if she was just not paying attention to the part where Hook nearly jabbed her off the plank with his sword, because Wendy not only wishes she could go with them — whyyyyy; her poor husband — but also tells Jane that she hopes Jane will have a daughter, too, who will go away with Peter. So that all the Darling girls can fall in love with the SAME kidnapping prepubescent foolchild who likes to taunt pirates? NO THANKS, WENDY. Her husband must be heavily medicated.
Also, eff this “come back with me to do my spring cleaning” BS. Do your own cleaning, Pan, I’m coming for ADVENTURE. -J #PeterPanLive
— Heather & Jessica (@fuggirls) December 5, 2014
Even one of the beans looked at me and went, “That’s the end? Um…”[photoembed id="1056981" size="two_thirds" alignment="center" text=""] “Don’t worry, darling,” Wendy said to her husband. “It’s extremely GOOD angel dust.”
As Peter cheers up, because he can replace Wendy’s warm body with another one to do all his chores, he tosses fairy dust on Jane and she shoots up into the air, and the two of them and Tinkerbell fly out into the night sky — because I guess they remembered Tinkerbell exists, despite giving her only the weakest echo of a plot.
You don’t have to tell ME, Tink. I am on your side here.