Thursday, November 6, 2008

What Would Happen If?

Wouldn't it be fun to take your favorite story and write about what happens next?

Cinderella's daughter would become a spoiled brat, and treat her step-daughter as her mother had been treated. A prince from a neighboring country would fall in love with Cindy Jr., show her the error of her ways, and the two would live happily ever after.

What about To Kill A Mockingbird? Scout would grow up to become a political activist, and work at developing half-way houses for the mentally handicapped in honor of her friend, Boo.

Several classics have gone on in sequels. Little Women and Gone With the Wind just to name two.

Hook, a sequel to Peter Pan, asks the question, "What would happen if Peter grew up?" Which is, according to IMDb, the exact question that Jake, son of the writer, James V. Hart, asked his dad. And we're glad he did. What would happen? He'd become a modern day pirate as a cutthroat merger and acquisitions lawyer and develop a fear of flying, of course. Genius!

The creator of Hook must have had a blast as he took all the familiar devices and turned them on their heads. Peter, the boy who never grew up, becomes old. He demands that the window in the children's room be kept shut, even though years before, that's how he visited Wendy. We see a glimpse of the icon Peter as he stands at the window with his fists on his hips. He doesn't pay much attention to his children when before he had nothing but time for kids. His work phone is a constant interruption. And the formerly cocky Peter has trouble spitting out words as he gives his speech at Wendy's banquet.

We wouldn't get any of that if we didn't know the story so well.

I love that Peter marries Wendy's granddaughter, Moira. We all so hoped Peter and Wendy would get together. Well, those of us with a romantic streak. So this was the next best thing. (By the way, was that Gwenyth Paltrow as a young adult Wendy?)

Wendy herself turns the old home into a house for lost children, just as she cared for the lost boys in Neverland. And by the way, I love her phrase, "Give us a squench." I've used that a few times with my own grandchildren.

An elderly Tootles continues to look for his marbles.

Nana is still stuck outside in the doghouse, although I suspect she's a direct descendant of the original. I do wish they'd used a Saint Bernard as in the Disney original, but a shaggy dog works, I guess. Perhaps that's what was used in the original play.

Did you catch the hooks holding the windows closed in the nursery?

The inciting incident occurs when the children are taken. Peter must now become the person he'd shed, someone he doesn't even remember.

Tink to the rescue!

Julia Roberts's Tinkerbell is just the cutest thing. And what wonderful spunk. I don't recall the original fairy clobbering Peter with a blunt object, so this is great insight into what she turned into over the years. With the help of fairy dust, she lugs an unconscious Peter to Neverland to rescue his kids.

Peter attempts to rescue them, but his skills as a lawyer have not prepared him for the treacherous pirates. He fails miserably, leaving his son to wonder why he didn't try harder. Does his dad care for him? Now, Peter not only needs to rescue his children, but he must regain his son's faith.

And now the question the creator must have asked himself. "What would happen if Peter's kids are influenced by the child-hating Captain Hook?" The answer soon becomes obvious. The girl, Maggie, sees him for who he his, someone who desperately needs a mommy. But Jack is really who Hook wants in the first place. With Peter as king of the lost boys, and therefore their chief champion in defending them from the pirate, wouldn't it be ironic if Peter lost his own boy to his treacherous arch enemy?

Ooooo…good stuff!

Peter encounters conflict after conflict as he tries to become the Pan again. The first being Rufio, the boy who has taken his place. A street punk who obviously learned how to fight dirty. He and his gang of lost boys bully and terrorize poor Peter, embarrassing Tink since she's trying to convince them that this is, indeed, Peter Pan.

He finally gains the trust of some of the smaller boys. The littlest finding his hero somewhere in the flabby face by stretching the wrinkles out of it. But Peter still must prove himself to Rufio. He finally overthrows the leader through an insult contest. That makes sense. I had boys. It's what they do.

The major conflict (but not yet the black moment) in the middle of the second act happens when Peter and the lost boys act as spies in the pirate camp. Hook has decided, with the help of his personal valet, Smee, that the best way to get to Peter is through his son. He has worked his magic and Jack is becoming a pirate, and sadly, forgetting he has a family. Hook knows that Jack's problem with his father is that he's never there for him. He even missed a very important baseball game once. So, the devious pirate orders all under his command to stage a game just for Jack to prove to the boy that he loves him (gag) and will always be there for him (gag.) Peter sees his son play baseball, probably for the first time. He's so proud of him as he hits a home run, but his joy is short-lived when he hears Hook say "My Jack." He knows there is no other way to gain his son's respect but to become who he really is deep inside.

He must fly.

How do you have a happy thought when your children are in the hands of the enemy? But find it he does, as he thinks of Moira and the birth of their first child, Jack. To save Jack, he thought of Jack. There must be sermon in there somewhere!

Next conflict. In the transformation, he forgets he has kids, because he's become a boy again, albeit still in a man's body.

Tinkerbell must save the day once more. (Do you see a pattern here? It seems only the females are thinking straight in this story. Good insight, Spielberg!) Ah, but Tinkerbell has her own problem. Even while helping Peter get his kids back, she knows that once he does, she'll lose him again, probably forever. Now, we already knew that she was the jealous sort. And now, she tries to do something about it. Here comes the next question the creator asked. "What would happen if Tinkerbell acted upon that jealousy?" She would make the only wish she'd ever wished for herself. She becomes big, hoping that Peter will choose her. But, alas. Peter is a family man. Upon his rejection, she poofs into her tiny bit of light and flitters off.

As we enter the third act, Peter, fully the Pan and no longer ground-challenged, shows up on Hook's ship. A mêlée ensues. Pirates and lost boys battle it out, and sadly for Rufio, he battles to the death.

This is Pan's black moment. In saving his own son, he's lost one of the boys he's sworn to protect. Hook deserves to die.

Whoa! Our favorite fairy tale just turned dark. Is this what happens when we modernize a classic? Never fear. The writer, James Hart, wrote this knowing his son would read it.

Peter clashes swords with Hook. As they parry and thrust, Hook looses his vanity. His wig flies off and underneath is nothing more than a tired, old man. Maggie, who has seen him for what he is all along, convinces her father to end the fight and take them home.

He nearly does just that, but Hook isn't finished. With one last cruel insult -- vowing that he'll continue to pursue Peter's children, and their children, and their children -- Peter turns his sword on him once again, but before he can finish him off, Hook's greater enemy takes over. The giant crocodile that had taken Hook's hand ages ago, and has been in a taxidermied state in the town square, topples and falls on Hook mouth first. The dastardly pirate disappears into the throat and becomes nothing but a satisfied burp.

After naming one of the remaining boys as leader, Peter and his children return to England. He completes his character arc by answering his work phone in the middle of their homecoming and tossing it out the window. Peter, the man, has rediscovered his boy within, and we are happy to find that both can inhabit the same body.

So, the final question is the same as the first: "What would happen if Peter Pan grew up?" He would embrace his children with as much robust as he had embraced his childhood.

Kudos go to Amblin Studios for taking the classic and finishing the story.

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