I approached "Pan" with the lowest of expectations. After seeing the critics rip it to shreds, I was positive that just about anything would exceed those low expectations. And then they started singing singing Smells Like Teen Spirit. Not just a subtle reference. Like, ten thousand people belting it out hardcore for a solid minute. You may ask, what does Nirvana have to do with a family-focused Peter Pan origin story? I would tell you, but the film never explained it. That seems to be the case with a lot of the content in this film. Typically, the purpose of an origin film is to explain the origins of well-known characters and places so that sequels can be produced based on this reinvigorated popularity. "Pan" just creates a lot of questions without explanation and fails to create the connection to characters that might justify a sequel. It would be really interesting to know how nuns in World War II London were able to summon pirates from a magical realm to kidnap their orphans as punishment. Yes, that actually happens in this story. So how can a film with great special effects and a talented cast be so disappointing? "Pan" is just another reminder that even Oscar-nominated actors can't save a poorly written story. Hugh Jackman offers his most Johnny Depp-ish impersonation of a pirate, not because he lacks the originality and talent to create an interesting character with depth, but because the script requires the role to be played this way. Likewise, Rooney Mara just received her second Oscar nomination but her performance as Tiger Lilly is static because of her limited dialogue. This is the sort of screenwriting that gives family-friendly movies a bad name. We don't need an anachronistic telling of a classic fairy tale or a heroic interpretation of a classic villain ("Maleficent," anyone?) to draw in audiences; instead reimagine a classic in a way that enhances our favorite stories without changing them. That's why "Cinderella" has an 84% on Rotten Tomatoes and "Pan" has a 26%. Family films can be worthy of Oscars when done the right way. If last-name-titled movies based on Peter Pan are going to be a thing, I'm sticking with "Hook." The latest iteration of the Peter Pan story had potential with a great cast and a huge budget but the final result is another cheapening of a classic story.
[Pictured: Even Hugh Jackman can't save this poorly-written character]