WENDY – A Review By Gadi Elkon

Filmmaker Benh Zeitlin tremendous success and award recognition for his previous film, Beasts of a Southern Wild, could have led to many movie journeys.  Zeitlin took a few years to rework the classic Peter Pan story by looking through the youthful eyes of a new version/vision of Wendy.  Will you want to travel to “never never land” with this unique looking Peter Pan origin tale?

Here is my review of WENDY.

The classic story of Peter Pan is wildly reimagined in this ragtag epic from Benh Zeitlin, director of BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD. Lost on a mysterious island where aging and time have come unglued, Wendy must fight to save her family, her freedom, and the joyous spirit of youth from the deadly peril of growing up.

Zeitlin once again put his film in the innocent hands of acting new comers.  Wendy is played by vibrant first timer Devin France and Peter Pan is fellow newcomer Yashua Mack.  France though is our main lead and it’s through her expansive gaze we see the reimagined world of Peter Pan.  Instead of fairy dust to fly we are given the magical realism of the railroad train system.  Wendy and her twin brothers James and Douglas (real life twins Gage and Gavin Naquin play the duo) are mesmerized by the way in which their fellow childlike friends “disappear” occasionally down the train tracks of life.  Their mother is the owner/cook/bartender of a café on a stop along the rail line.  Through her devotion they learn the harsh reality of growing up poor.  But their inquisitive nature pushes them to see where have all their friends gone.  In particular, a lost child named Thomas becomes a focal point for the story.

To capture the jump from “real” world to Peter Pan’s neverland we are treated to a Zeitlin staple.  A musically driven sequence showing the speed and power of transportation.  In Beasts it was the chugging along nature of a Bayou barge while in Wendy its the smoke spewing trains that deliver us into a new world.  This new world is inhabited by the shadowy figure of Peter and his band of youthful brothers.  Wendy, James, and Douglas journey opens their eyes to what happens when you leave the comfort of normalcy.  The yearning sense of discovery is a real highlight of the film.  The way in which our young heroes navigate their wild new surroundings captures the sparkling childlike innocence that is another staple of Zeitlin’s work.  If you enjoyed Beasts (How could you not) than you’ll really feel at home with Wendy.

The tremendous performances from the kids are slightly outshined by Dan Romer’s musical score perfectly molding to the sound design of the film.  The musical quality of Zeitlin’s work is a real highlight and helps ground this quirky magical realistic feel in the movie. Lastly a new way to explain those that do grow old in neverland helps showcase the two sides of the new Peter Pan world.  The film doesn’t have the dynamic impact that Beasts of a Southern Wild but the feel and look are so similar its tough to not fall in love with the new Wendy tale.  I highly recommend the movie just to see the fun take on who is our future Captain Hook!!

For more information on – WENDY

Directed by: Benh Zeitlin

Written by: Benh and Eliza Zeitlin

Rated PG-13

Selig Rating 4 Stars

Running Time: 1hr 52min

Drama / Fantasy

Wide Release: March 13th

Starring: Devin France, Yashua Mack, Gage Naquin, Gavin Naquin, Ahmad Cage, Krzysztof Meyn

 

The Selig Rating Scale:

5 Stars – Excellent movie, well worth the price.

4 Stars – Good movie

3 Stars – OK movie

2 Stars – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.

1 Star – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn’t paid for it.