Picks and Pans Review: Hook

updated 12/23/1991 at 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/23/1991 01:00AM

Robin Williams, Dustin Hoffman

Our children deserve better parents. That's the gospel according to Steven Spielberg in his extravagant new Hook (see cover story, page 92). In this, the most stylized and idiosyncratic twist to date on J.M. Bairie's Peter Pan, Williams plays Peter Banning, a high-rolling mergers-and-acquisitions attorney who just doesn't have enough time for his two adorable children or even for his dear old granny, the fabled Wendy Darling (Maggie Smith), who years before adopted and raised him back in England. Still, he has promised his English wife and his kids a Dickensian Christmas, so it's off to London they go with holly in their hearts and a beeper on Dad's hip.

Dear Granny mourns what Peter has become, because she knows who he once was. So does the dread Captain Hook, who returns from Neverland, hies off with Peter's children and leaves a challenge: Come and get 'em if you can. But Peter can't return by himself; he's still mired in the '80s, and this is a very '90s movie. So Tinkerbell (Julia Roberts) has to whisk Peter back to the Island of Lost Boys, where he's put through a retro puberty rite to make him worthy of Hook's steel and his children's affection.

What it all is, really, is a glorious Spielbergian essay on the value, in gold doubloons, of rampant sentimentality. Every small triumph is accompanied by a musical crescendo so resounding you'd think the Lost Boys had just whipped the Luftwaffe. But Spielberg knows, as well as any child, how to indulge himself and get away with it. He's got Williams, America's premier comic, as the properly puckish Pan, and Hoffman, America's premier actor, having as much fun in Restoration drag as he did in modern drag in Tootsie. Plus, Spielberg has fashioned the most fabulous, full-rigged set since The Wizard of Oz. In sum, he's pushed all the right buttons. And so, when the bells ring at the box office, be assured no fairy will die in the counting houses of Beverly Hills. (PG)

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