The Set of 400: #109 – My Favorite Loss of Marbles

Today! Because for reasons of good form, I have decided that the so-called Pan will return in three days to commit the arbitrament of the sword. Smee, translate –

Hook (1991)

Directed by Steven Spielberg (x5)

Starring Robin Williams (x5), Dustin Hoffman (x4), Julia Roberts (x3), Maggie Smith (x3), Bob Hoskins (x3), Charlie Korsmo (x2), Amber Scott, Caroline Goodall, Dante Basco, Laurel Cronin, Arthur Malet, Don S. Davis (x2), Gwyneth Paltrow (x4), Phil Collins, David Crosby, Tony Burton (x5), Glenn Close (x2), Raushan Hammond

Back-to-back 1991s! A year so dense with favorites that it has now landed 14 movies on the list, but like 1992 before it (on this list, not chronologically, obviously, smart asses) only sees one film crack the top 100! But Hook sure got close. The first sign that my undying ten-year-old’s love for Batman could be cracked, Hook temporarily unseated the Caped Crusader’s ’89 outing as my favorite film, in lists from the day currently missing, but being avidly sought, in the various attic’d boxes of my youth. As yet, no luck. But man did I love Hook. It’s funny and exciting, with some really cool sequences (all of Pirate Neverland) and iconic images (really the whole London stretch in the first act of the film). So what if it feels four hours long watching it today? For kids, Hook is incredible.

But no, I can’t imagine adults feel the same way. There’s weird stuff in the film that just doesn’t work (ahem, everything related to Tinkerbell – every single thing) and there are goofball scenes that may kind of fit the theme, but really undo some of the characters. Most egregious is the period of the film where Peter’s son Jack is, like, playing baseball with the pirates and forgets his parents and life on Earth and starts dressing like Captain Hook – which happens very, very quickly. And they try to shoe-horn in some explanation – this is just what happens in Neverland! – but it doesn’t happen to the daughter, and they are only in Neverland for like a weekend, even though it feels like forever, due to the excessive run time of the film.

Nonetheless, Hook largely holds up and works to this day thanks to the terrific performances from Williams as the grown up Pan, Hoskins as the hilarious yes-man Smee, and especially Dustin Hoffman as the aged, vain, manipulative Hook. You can draw a fairly straight line from the Disney versions of these characters to their Hook counterparts without tons of change (at least once Peter accepts he’s the adult Pan), with the thundering exception of the bizarro Tinkerbell, but only Captain Hook feels like a fully developed character, affected by the years that have passed and his psychological crocodile trauma. Even the weirder parts of the film – mostly involving Peter’s kidnapped children – are made watchable by Hoffman’s skillful take on Hook. He has to be villainous for the audience to side against, but at the same time charismatic enough that again, Peter’s son completely adopts him as his role model and god by the end of the movie, internally three days later.

It’s decidedly Spielberg-lite, but he’s a great director of children and director for children, and Hook works amazing well inside what it’s trying to do. It’s a great story idea successfully realized (mostly, anyway), and has a terrific design scheme to back it up. So what if it’s not something that’s going to resonate too heavily with adults? If you saw it as a kid, I think you’ll still enjoy it. If you’ve never seen it, you’ll probably still find some stuff in it to like. If you hated it back in the day, what are you, a monster?! Hook is fine!

It’s quite the technical marvel, and was nominated for five below-the-line Oscars – Costumes, Visual Effects, Makeup, Art Direction-Set Direction, and Song for “When Your Alone” (the only real thing Amber Scott’s Maggie gets to do in Neverland), while Hoffman did snag a Best Actor Comedy or Musical Globe nod. It also picked up the first of Julia Roberts’ Razzie nominations for Worst Supporting Actress (again, Tinkerbell, what the hell), followed by nods for Mary Reilly and Mother’s Day. No wins though! Congrats, Julia!

It’s pretty corny all around (puns!)

Spielberg’s run at Woody Allen’s director guild lead begins here, as he becomes only the second Five-Timer behind the camera, after #294 1941, #123 Jurassic Park, #226 Munich, and #331 Twilight Zone, while there are a bunch of advancing folks, led by Five-Timers Williams (#148 The Fisher King, #112 Aladdin, #365 Popeye, #341 Good Morning, Vietnam) and Rocky vet Tony Burton (#400 IV, #356 III, #133 I, and #121 The Shining). Spotlight!

Burton’s finest moment?

Coming Monday! I never realized till now how ugly I am, because you’re so beautiful –

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