Movie review: "Pan" is better than it should be

Brad Keefe, Columbus Alive

Let's just start out by saying this: "Pan" has no right to work as a movie, and most critics have been saying just that. I'm not going to be one of them.

I can fully understand this. An original prequel to a story as loved as J.M. Barrie's "Peter Pan" sure feels like a shallow Hollywood cash-in move - particularly when it features a bizarre sing-along to Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" (which I kind of loved).

Add an odd choice to direct a big-budget family film (Joe Wright of "Atonement" and "Hanna"), a relatively untested writer (Jason Fuchs) and controversy around the casting of a white actress (Rooney Mara) as Princess Tiger Lily, and it looks like a recipe for disaster.

But I found "Pan" to be anything but a disaster, despite what you may have heard. It's a visually imaginative, family-friendly adventure that feels a bit like the great kid-venture flicks of the '80s, only with all the modern bells and whistles.

The story takes young Peter (Levi Miller), to quote Metallica, off to Never Neverland, where he meets Hook (Garrett Hedlund) in his pre-Captain days (complete with hand!). A wild adventure unfolds as they escape from the clutches of the evil pirate Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman).

"Pan" is an original story, but it works in a ton of classic film archetypes - some better than others. Hedlund's Hook feels a little off, a cowboy Han Solo take on the character, but Jackman goes all in on the theatrics of Blackbeard.

Wright orchestrates some really gorgeous productions and paces the action well. Is "Pan" worthy of the classic it came from? Probably not, but it's a lot of fun.


Opens Friday

3 stars out of 4