Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Review: Wendy

Release date: February 28, 2020 (DC Area March 6, 2020)
Running time: 112 minutes
Starring: Yashua Mack, Devin France, Gage Naquin

Wendy is an updated retelling of the Peter Pan story, one that keeps some of the magic from the original but grounds the high flying adventure closer to some reality.  In the film young Wendy (France) and her two brothers James and Douglas (Gavin and Gage Naquin) follow a funny, energetic boy to a secret island.  The boy, Peter (Mack), shows them how to be young kids forever.  However, how long can these kids stay on the island and ignore the real world?  Could they really stay there forever?

This movie is a mixed bag.  I love the idea of a modern retelling of Peter Pan and this film had a lot of charm.  The camera work was very interesting at the start, with a great use of colors and light to convey Wendy and her brothers' journey to Never Never Land.  The scenes where Wendy first meets Peter are especially interesting, with a great build up to the final meeting.  I also love some of the themes here, the balance that the story tries to tell of youthful expectations versus the realities of life.  One line from the film that stuck with me was when Wendy talks about adults just being complacent in life, stating that "Your life will go by and nothing will ever happen."  In that respect, it feels like a very modern update to the classic children's tale and I applaud the filmmakers for this attempt.  

However, Wendy has a lot of issues that spoil this wonderful concept.  I can't remember the last time I wanted to like a movie so much but it just didn't live up to my own expectations.  The various kids of Never Never Land are very energetic and fun, but they also suffer from delivery that feels forced.  This can be expected from children acting, but with so many of the film's stars being kids, it can lead to some awkward dialog.  Additionally, the story just didn't feel like it had much structure.  Maybe that was intentional--i.e., the movie itself is also meant to simulate the carelessness of youth--but I think it just needed some more editing.  Big events happen with little build up or explanation, and there is one major plot point that just comes out of nowhere and feels laughable.  Additionally, the ending felt a little bittersweet.  And, despite the film having such a great use of color and light at the start, the whole film feels muted.  For a movie that takes place on a tropical island, I expected some of those scenes to really pop but they felt like the entire movie was put through a matte filter.  

Wendy is a charming concept; a retelling of Peter Pan with a diverse cast grounded in a modern time.  However, perhaps this Never Never Land did need some adults to deal with its issues and make the film actually soar.   

Rent It

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