(director: Brenda Chapman; screenwriters: Marissa Kate Goodhill/based on the creations of J.M. Barrie (Peter Pan ) & Lewis Carroll (Alice in Wonderland); cinematographer: Jules O’Loughlin; editor: Dody Dorn; music: John Debney; cast: Jordan Nash (Peter), Keira Chansa (Alice), Reece Yates (David), David Oyelowo (Jack), Angelina Jolie (Rose Littleton), Anna Chancellor (Eleanor Morrow), Michael Caine (Charlie), Clarke Peters (Hatter), David Gyasi (Captain James), Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Adult Alice Littleto), Derek Jacobi (Mr. Brown); Runtime: 94; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Leesa Kahn, James Spring, David Oyelowo, Steve Richards, Andrea Keir; Endurance Media; 2020)
“It’s a loopy film that’s more attractive to adults than kids, even if made for kids.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
An inert fairy-tale children’s pic helmed by animation filmmaker Brenda Chapman (“Brave”/”The Prince of Egypt”) and written by Marissa Kate Goodhill. Chapman got the assignment from the studio with the stipulation she must take on the completed script by Marissa Kate Goodhill. It’s her first solo directorial work, and her first live-action film.
Rose (Angelina Jolie) and Jack (David Oyelowo) are an inter-racial British couple who live in an ideal suburban country home outside of London during an unspecified Victorian- era. They have three children, David (Reece Yates), Peter (Jordan A. Nash), and Alice (Keira Chansa), who are well-behaved, filled with joy and imaginative.
But things change when tragedy hits the happy family and each family member reacts in a different way to their new reality. The film’s villain, the childless Eleanor Morrow (Anna Chancellor), Rose’s older, aristocratic sister, uses her money to take David away from the needy family because they’re on the poverty line and she convinces the family she will provide the financial aid that will ensure the kid will get a good education for a career. But the kid meets with a predictable misfortune. While the bad news causes Rose to hit the bottle and Jack reverts to his former bad habit of gambling, the kids retreat into their rich fantasy world: Alice into a magical world full of rabbits and angry queens, and Peter into a different magical world where he can avoid adult grief and responsibility forever. The essence of the film has Peter telling Alice: “It’s not time to grow up, Alice. It never is. You’ll see!”
It’s a loopy film that’s more attractive to adults than kids, even if made for kids. The mood swings veer from being too sentimental to too bleak. Fantasy is used by the children as a means of escapism from the real world, while the adults have for the most part forgotten about their childhood fantasy world and will have trouble dealing with their emotions and responsibilities of adulthood in the same way children are freely able to do so.
Overall the film had too little sparkle to carry out what it was preaching, as it’s only briefly joyful or magical. Furthermore, it seems incredible that the filmmaker wants us to believe that a child’s magical world is for the most part better than the adult’s world. I found this to be rubbish, conjecture or just plain Hollywood balderdash. But on the positive side, the director elicits wonderful performances from both the children and the star-studded cast.
REVIEWED ON 3/10/2020 GRADE: C