Hook is perhaps one of the most underrated, underappreciated children’s film of the 1990s.
Not only does it feature a star-studded cast including Dustin Hoffman, Robin Williams, Maggie Smith and Julia Roberts, but it also has Steven Spielberg at the helm.
However, critics and fans alike have not taken favourably to the 1991 classic, often giving it low ratings and criticising Spielberg’s enthusiasm for crafty props and set design.
Shame on you critics! In fact, their naivety reinforces the irony of the entire film.
Indeed, Hook was an absolutely mesmerising, awe-inspiring, dream-shaping, magical experience for any kid who watched it. The food fights, the pirates, the flying, the sword battles, these are all things we dreamed about as kids. But the film has a strong message for adults. In fact, re-watching the film a few weeks ago showed me that the movie is more for the older generation than it is for the young.
How? The film portrays a message that many other artists have reiterated over time, in their poetry, art and music. Indeed, one of Dylan Thomas’ most famous poems, ‘Fern Hill’, encapsulated a similar message: the beauty, freedom and innocence of childhood. The danger of growing up. Leaving behind the ability to escape reality by diving into a world of imagination characterised by heroes and villains, pirates and lost boys. The overarching theme that, to a child, anything is possible.
The lack of logic. A child will tell you the grass is on fire. And as it waves in the wind, it may look like a raging flame. But to an adult, grass is grass. We tell the kids to grow up and we neglect to see the imagination that sparkles in their eyes. They turn into a corporate lawyer, a successful businessman, or a politician and leave that freedom and imaginative expression behind.
Hook follows a similar path. Peter Banning is a successful lawyer who cares little for his kids’ free flowing energy and passion for imagination. He gets so caught up in his adult world that, as Maggie Smith’s character Wendy says so well, ‘he has forgotten who he is.’
Through a series of events he finds himself being dragged away to Neverland by Tinkerbell (Roberts), where he rediscovers his childhood in a way that we can only dream of. He learns how to fly by releasing his happy thoughts, a talent that he had lost by growing up, by prioritising his career and by focussing only on his blinding ambition.
But I want to stop there, and move away from the film to focus on Robin Williams. A man who gave us so much, and who rarely sought anything in return. No actor, no comedian, no professional, could have played the role of Peter Pan better than Robin Williams.
He epitomises the character with every bone in his body. How? At the end of the day, Williams is a child. Over the years, through all his comedy, his films, his interviews, all you see is a big kid who loved to be someone other than a 30, 40 or 50 year old man.
He lived life like a child. Like it was one big imaginary world where he could be any character he wanted. A Scotsman, a Radio DJ in Vietnam, an old Woman, a Psychiatrist, Peter Pan.
Not only is this a quality we should all strive for as humans, but it is something that we should hold dear to our hearts.
We often get so caught up in our own world or society, trying to conform to social norms and living what is deemed a ‘good life’, but in essence what we get told to do, is to stop dreaming. To stop being that eight-year-old child who envisages scoring the winning goal at the FIFA World Cup, or who pretends he/she is playing guitar in front of fifty thousand fans.
It is these themes and ideas that are so expertly portrayed throughout Hook. Ironically, the children of the movie are called ‘Lost Boys’, but if anything, them being lost takes them back to the heart of childhood. In fact, we – the adults – are the true lost boys and girls.
So next time you watch Hook, be inspired not because it’s a film filled with big actors and an amazing director, or because it uses extravagant set designs, but because it’s telling you a message that you may have forgotten.
Watch the brilliance of Williams on display as he shows us just how possible it is to be a kid again and the importance of imagination and freedom. No one could have shown us more, and no one could have done it better.
On 11 August, we said farewell to a legend. Some said goodbye to Mrs. Doubtfire, others said goodbye to Adrian Cronauer, but I will always remember him as Peter Pan. And remember, as Peter Pan said himself, ‘Never say goodbye. Because saying goodbye means going away, and going away means forgetting.’
Rest in peace Robin Williams, you will never be forgotten. You have gifted the world with happiness.