Spoilers (Even though it's a 2002 Film for Christ-sake).
The film itself isn't that bad. The animation is great, and you can tell that the whole staff worked very hard in trying to capture that 1953 feel to it, from the art style to the voice acting. But the fucking writers. Here's the problem:
They want the premise of the sequel to be about a little girl (Jane) who should embrace her childhood and not focusing on growing up. Fine. Great idea. But they set that little girl smack in the middle of a World War. Not good. Worst of all, every scene with the mother (Wendy) shows her acting like a child and not being very responsible. So it's up to Jane to grow up and play the adult since her mother is too busy reliving her glory years. The first act is basically showing us Jane going through the hardships of getting rations, listening to radio communication on air raid movements, and making sure her mom and brother are safe from fucking bombs. Wendy, on the other hand, is scolding her daughter for being too adult.
You see the problem here? Let me spell it out for you if you don't. Anything that happens in Neverland is completely useless now, because the problem isn't Jane not wanting to be a kid, it's everyone else ignoring the fact she's the one keeping the family together. The REAL problem is Wendy not being a good mother. If she were, Jane wouldn't have had to step up in the first place. And you get the impression the writers caught this on pretty late in the game, as when Jane comes back from Neverland her war-hero dad comes home on leave. We don't know if he's injured or how long he's staying, but some adult figure is there so Jane can be a kid... for a few days at least.
So all the magical stuff that is happening to Jane in Neverland is ruined by this little fact. The audience is with Jane who wants to just go home, because lord knows if Wendy is playing hop-scotch in the yard while fucking bombs are falling over head. And the real pathetic thing about it is that if you change ONE thing, the film works. Here it is, and it's a shocker: Jane's family should not be in the middle of a FUCKING WAR ZONE! Not so shocking? Oh, because it's fucking obvious.
The film just should be about an uptight little girl who's playing the adult for no reason other than she wants to grow up. NOW the Neverland stuff works. You want Jane to experience the magic that Peter Pan shows her, because she has no war responsibilities. The lesson the film wants to convey now works.
(Oh and the stupid c-rate 90s pop songs that wouldn't even fly in the 90s suck too.)
Anyway, those are my thoughts on Return to Neverland, a film that happened 12 years ago...
Believe it or not, I saw this film in theaters. Yeah, a waste of money on the part of my folks and it was my idea. Fuck me.
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Okay to play devil's advocate, the WWII idea isn't a bad one-just poorly executed. It acted more like set decoration if anything, just to raise the stakes-at least to the writers it did. Jane's not bad as a character until she fell for Hook's deception. Really? They set her up to be intelligent, she's not stupid; in fact I like her better when she was acting like an adult but I don't know, they needed something for the plot.
(side note: in high school and college I was in the drama club/drama major and acted in several plays)
On another note, Fox's Peter Pan and the Pirates was an awesome series. It sucks that I can find every retro show from my childhood on TV somewhere except that one. And it never came out on DVD here in the U.S. either. It is an underrated classic that I wish I could get copies of.