A whole new world10/14/2015
Hollywood takes a lot of flak for releasing so many reboots and remakes of the same, tired material. But sometimes there can be a fresh take on an old property that completely changes how you view a story and offers new insights that you would have never come to on your own. Sometimes, a new look at an old story can change everything. But not “Pan.” “Pan” is crap.
“Pan” follows young actor Levi Miller, who plays Neo…I mean Peter. Neo/Peter is the “chosen one” who is destined to help lead his people out of never-ending war and into a world of safety and salvation. In “Pan,” rather than being a “Matrix”-style computer simulation, the oppressive force comes in the form of a pirate named Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman), and the oppressed people are, well, pretty much everybody else in the world — Neverland, in this case.
The story starts with baby Peter being dropped off at an orphanage by his mother. We see her give him a pan flute necklace, say a few words of love and then run off into the night. We are then fast-forwarded to a point that is described in a title card as “London, World War II” — meaning anytime between 1939 and 1945. Peter is now 12 years old and waging a near constant war with the spite-minded head nun who runs the orphanage.
It turns out that in addition to hoarding war rations for herself and feeding the orphans simple gruel every day, the head nun has also been selling the orphans off to Blackbeard in what can only be descried as the least subtle child slavery ring ever. Here’s how it works: At night, the nuns run an honest-to-goodness Jolly Rodger up their flag pole. That apparently signals the pirates, who show up in their honest-to-goodness flying pirate ship and then proceed to snag the children via bungee cord.
Eventually Peter’s number comes up, and he is one of the orphans that the nuns sell off. Up to the pirate ship he goes, and the pirates go wherever the heck Neverland is. Once there, Peter meets Blackbeard in one of the more inexplicable scenes I have seen since the space DMV scene in “Jupiter Ascending.” Blackbeard needs all these orphans to work in the mines that he runs where they are looking for crystallized fairy dust. So when the pirate ship arrives at the mine to drop off the latest batch of orphans, the existing collection of pirates and slaves greet it by singing a song: Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”
Unlike Baz Luhrmann with “Moulin Rouge,” however, “Pan” does not make the thematic choice to insert modern songs into scenes throughout. In fact, this happens once again two scenes later when the group sings The Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop,” and is then never spoken of or referenced again.
There is so much about this movie that is both inexplicable and terrible. The computer-generated imagery is lousy, the story is simplistic and full of holes, and the acting is uniformly atrocious. As Blackbeard, Jackman chews on the scenery in his most bombastically over-acted role since the canceled TV show “Viva Laughlin.” Rooney Mara, as Tiger Lilly, is given far too little to do, and Garrett Hedlund, playing Captain Hook, is doing what I can only describe as an impression of mid-career “As Good As it Gets” Jack Nicholson.
Kids might be entertained by the bright colors and lots of flying, but viewers with more than two brain cells will find themselves insulted by the overly simplistic, one-note characters and dumb story line. Stay home and show your kids “Inside Out.” CV