Sunday, March 15, 2020

Wendy - Review

The story of Peter Pan has been beaten into the collective conscious of general audiences so many times by now that it would be a miracle if you didn’t know the basic set-up for every version. There is always a boy named Peter, a mysterious island or land with some mystical energy, and there is always a rag tag band of lost boys taking on some pirates. Some may include a magical fairy, or some severely racist animation (looking at you, Disney), but the point stands: if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.

Lost on a mysterious island, a girl fights to save her family, her freedom and the joyous spirit of youth.

With all that being said though, there is a way to create something with this material that is interesting, charming and even great if handled well. The idea behind Wendy, a look through a different character’s eyes mixed with all the indie aesthetic you could imagine, is not inherently a bad one. The themes of youth and imagination are timeless, so plugging them into a different setting or time period should not be too difficult to at least make enjoyable.

But Wendy can’t even clear that low bar.

Outside of a tremendous score from Dan Romer and some decent camera work from Sturia Brandth Grøvlen, Wendy barely moves the dial towards anything resembling a good movie. From a narrative perspective, the film is a disaster. There is nothing close to a narrative thread that connects a serious of chaotic scenes hellbent on trying to be more important than they are. The results are muddled at best, and tiresome at worst, with anything else falling somewhere in between.

The expectations for Wendy were never terribly high to begin with, placing a long-awaited follow-up from an Oscar nominated director in Benh Zeitlin this early in the year is awfully telling. And unfortunately, those suspicions were accurate, as Zeitlin gets nowhere close to accomplishing what he did with Beasts of the Southern Wild, and retroactively makes one wonder how that film ever worked in the first place.

Wendy is a complete mess, a fiasco made by people trying too hard to be artsy and independent instead of focusing on the everlasting themes that make the story of Peter Pan a classic to begin with. And without those elements, without anything that even looks like fun, you’ll find that Wendy is more likely to put you to sleep than to make you long for the eternal youth the film and the characters so desperately want to capture.

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