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What Went Wrong? Hook

Gordon Lipton

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Reviewing a bad movie that could’ve been better

Dustin Hoffman Captain Hook image
Amblin Entertainment

Most people have seen Hook (1991) right? It might be the family movie you watch over the holidays or just something for Sunday afternoon streaming on Netflix. As the follow up to such a popular children’s story in Peter Pan Hook was always going to be popular. But there are many elements of the film that fall short. So what went wrong and why do so many people see Hook as a bad movie?

I’ve taken a look at some movies, like 1993’s Super Mario Bros and 2016’s Suicide Squad here before. Movies that were big budget and high concept that reached for the stars but instead crashed and burned in a major way. They weren’t just critical bombs and financial disappointments. They also torpedoed any chance at launching profitable franchises.

This time, I’m going to take a look at a movie that is in the similar vein: 1991’s Hook. If you’ve seen Hook, you may be raising an eyebrow at me grouping it with the previous movies in my series. Hook wasn’t an overbooked, wasted opportunity (Suicide Squad). Nor an absolute tap-dancing dumpster fire (Super Mario Bros). But given its potential it was so…disappointing.

So lets a flight to Neverland and take a look at the world of Hook. We’ll see what was good about it, what went wrong, and how it could have been better.

SPOILERS: Although this movie is almost 30 years old, there are some spoilers in places. So beware!

What worked and why it had so much potential

There was so much that could have happened with Hook, so much room for originality and creativity. It certainly wasn’t a financial flop, making $300 million off of a $70 million budget, and it was nominated for five Academy Awards. Not only that, it featured an intriguing concept: what would have happened had Peter Pan actually grown up? We’ve seen so many iterations of the Peter Pan tale over the years. Rarely had it dealt with speculative fiction of what might happen if The Boy Who Never Grew Up suddenly…grew up?

Other than the concept, one of the other strong aspects of Hook was the star power it brought to the table. There was star power both in front of the camera and behind it.

The movie starred some of the biggest and brightest stars in Hollywood at the time (though we’ll get more into this in a bit). Plus it had some very strong supporting cast members. At the helm was legendary director Steven Spielberg. A man with family movie experience in E.T and fresh off of directing the mega-successful Indiana Jones movies. He’d go on to direct another family movie Jurassic Park soon afterwards. So experience in this genre was not a problem.

In particular, among the strong supporting cast was Bob Hoskins (who would go on to star in Super Mario Bros of all things) as Smee. Hoskins did a masterful job of walking the line between over-the-top and silly while also being dramatic. Not only that, but the introduction of a noticeable-yet-subtle homosexual undertone to the Smee-Hook relationship was somewhat revolutionary for its time. Also strong was Dante Basco as Rufio, the tough but ultimately sympathetic leader of the Lost Boys who dies defending Peter’s honour. This act forces Peter’s son, Jack, to reconcile with his father and, in the end, the crocodile gets Captain Hook again.

Indeed, one of the stronger elements of the Hook movie is the way it deals with the dynamic of Peter Pan (now Peter Banning) as a father. He becomes the same kind of grown-up he always wanted to avoid. In one of the movie’s most iconic moments, he regains his ability to fly by remembering his happiest thought. He left Neverland and grew up because he wanted to be a father.

That scene…it still gets me all these years later.

So despite all this potential and star power, why isn’t Hook more well-loved? Why is it remembered as a movie with middling reviews at best? It holds an abysmal 29% on Rotten Tomatoes. And why was it not a game-changing work that could have started a franchise?

Well, let’s take a look…

What Went Wrong?

Earlier, I mentioned that Hook had a lot of star-power in its cast, so it shouldn’t be a bad movie, right? It was also directed by Spielberg in his prime. But as any chef can tell you, great ingredients don’t always make a great meal. And Hook was not a great meal.

The biggest issue of the movie was the casting of the two leads. Robin Williams played Peter Pan. Dustin Hoffman played Captain Hook. That’s 11 Academy Award Nominations and 3 wins right there (and Hoffman had just won an Oscar for Rain Man two years prior). Both were very capable actors in their primes. But they were cast incorrectly.

Williams was…fine?…as Peter Pan. He tamed his trademark wild energy at the time and focused it into a more serious role until the time called for it towards the end. But he was a bit too inconsistent in his role. Like in his other more dramatic roles (i.e. What Dreams May Come), his “serious” acting sometimes comes across as too syrupy and over-the-top. His portrayal of Peter Pan was almost too melodramatic and, when he finally crosses back over to the side of the Lost Boys, almost too cheesy for the role.

The real role for Williams in this movie was that of Captain Hook. If Williams would have been cast as Captain Hook, he could have unleashed his manic energy for a good purpose. Captain Hook is all about being over-the-top and theatrical, and Williams would have nailed that part. However, there is also a darker element to Hook’s character. Williams might have been able to match this dark element but it would have been unlikely. One thing is for sure, though: Dustin Hoffman was not right for the role of Captain Hook. Hoffman is a great actor of course. He has played iconic roles and earned both critical and popular acclaim. But his performance as Captain Hook was too bland for this movie. Everything in Hook was over-the-top, syrupy, fantastical, or melodramatic. Hoffman’s performance was just…there. It was fine. But it could have been a lot more.

Speaking of poor casting choices, let’s talk about Julia Roberts as Tinkerbell for a minute. Julia Roberts did not need to be in this movie. She was not good enough to blend into the role. A role which made Tinkerbell less a character and more a ploy to sell tickets (indeed, she was a year removed from her star-making role in Pretty Woman).

This was a movie about a beloved fictional character, framed around an intriguing narrative, directed by a beloved auteur in Steven Spielberg. In this way, Hook was a bad movie as it suffered from a similar problem as something like Suicide Squad now. People were always going to see this movie. It didn’t need a “Hollywood choice” like Julia Roberts to sell tickets. This was a chance to put a potential rising star in a breakout role. Instead, they took the movie star who – like her counterparts – didn’t really fit and was dealing with relationship troubles at the time.

That brings us to the final misfire from Hook, that being the direction of Spielberg. Spielberg’s movies, while loved, always had that overly emotional and melodramatic bent. But he didn’t bring anything original and interesting to this story. He just leaned on his typical tricks and did a cookie-cutter job in which could have been an intriguing narrative. It had the stirring score by John Williams. Then it had the father-son dynamic that so many Spielberg movies have. It had big special effects and bright colours. But it didn’t have any real originality or charm. And I’m not the only one who thinks so: Spielberg himself notoriously disliked Hook, even though fans have taken more of a liking to it in recent years.

How Hook could have been better?

So with all of that in mind, how could Hook have been done better? How could it have become a classic of the fairytale and fantasy genre that it could have been?

Casting

The first step would have been to figure out the correct casting choice. So who would have been a better Peter Pan? You could convince me that Williams could have made Peter work if given a better Captain Hook to play off. In fact, one fascinating choice could have been to have Robin Williams play both Peter Pan and Captain Hook. It would have taken some editing trickery, of course. But to have him unleash all of the different facets of his personality and acting chops would have made for an interesting ride.

However, there could have been other choices to play Peter Pan that likely would have been more intriguing than Williams. The two that stand out the most are Rick Moranis and Tom Hanks. Both Moranis and Hanks had an everyman charm that would have gone over well with audiences and would have made them endearing as Peter Pan. Rick Moranis had recently finished filming the underrated Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. In which he played a goofball but well-meaning dad who ends up saving the day (sound familiar?). This same charm would have played well in Hook as Peter Pan, though having him play the stuck-up version of Peter Banning might have been tricky.

At this time Tom Hanks would have been a perfect choice for Peter Pan. He’d just recently finished starring in his breakout role in Big, where he played an actual boy trapped in a grown-up’s body. He had (and still has) that boyish and loveable charm that would have resonated with audiences as Peter Pan. He had not yet become the megastar he would develop into (Hook came out in 1991, and he didn’t win his back-to-back Oscars until 1994 & 1995). Tom Hanks wouldn’t have overpowered the role with his celebrity star power like Robin Williams did to a degree. With Hanks – or Moranis – in the role of Peter Pan, the character would have been more emotionally resonant and not as campy as Williams made it.

But what about the role of Captain Hook in this movie? Hook’s role is one that needed to be over-the-top and chew all the scenery. As we have discussed, Hoffman did not accomplish that task. But who could have done that effectively? We would need someone who was a quality actor that could handle any role. Plus, we would need someone who could be funny, but more to the point someone who could be sinister and threatening. We would also need someone who wouldn’t overpower the role with obvious celebrity star power.

That’s quite a lot of criteria to meet. But, the best choice for an actor that ticks all the boxes is the man who won the Academy Award for Best Actor the year before Hook was released: Jeremy Irons. Irons has made a career of playing the threatening, brilliant villain. He is always the highlight of the movie he is in, but he never overpowers it. In fact, he could have blended in with any of the actors for Peter Pan, whether it be Williams himself or even Moranis or Hanks.

In summary

The other thing that could have improved Hook? Let the story speak for itself. The way Hook was set up, it was a story about Peter Pan growing up, forgetting his roots, and ultimately redeeming himself. There was no need for nonsensical special effects or melodrama. The story will create the drama and the pathos; let the actors and the script do the rest. Indeed, a major issue with the original version of Hook is the fact that it really tried to pack too much into the film. It’s already a good story. Just let it tell itself.


Thanks for reading our review of Hook (1991). Do you agree or disagree with our points or have anything to add? If so, leave us a comment below.


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Read IMDB information on Hook HERE.

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The Good, The Bad And The Classic

Sarah Casserley

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Star From Disney Plus

Disney Plus Star image
Disney Plus

Disney Plus introduced Star to the service a little while ago now with loads of highlights. We’re sure, like us, you’ve had a good old delve into the catalogue and watched some of your faves. But, just in case you’ve missed anything, we have put together a little guide on what’s good to get stuck into. Also what’s bad and could do with being swiped past, and the classic must-see TV series and films that you probably didn’t even realise were there.

So, when you find yourself looking for something to watch on a Friday evening or binge for a couple of weeks, don’t scroll endlessly, just take a look at our guide of Disney Plus Star recommendations.


The Good

These are the films and series that have been released within the last 10 years, which you need to watch or should at least be on your ‘to watch’ list.

Series on Disney Plus Star

Atlanta (2016 – Present)

If you haven’t watched this series yet, why not? The creative and talented Donald Glover heads up the show as the main character ‘Earn’, and on the writing credits too (among 6 others, including his brother Stephen Glover), in this funny, gritty and realistic series which follows a rapper ‘Paper Boy’ and his manager Earn (Glover) as they navigate the rap business. If you have watched the show before, you may want to re-watch for a recap as season 3 has been promised to us very soon.

9-1-1 (2018 – Present)

This isn’t just any emergency service drama, this series covers the lives of several Los Angeles first responders: police officers, paramedics, firefighters, and dispatchers. It also has some big names involved, including Angela Bassett and, later in the series, Jennifer Love Hewitt. For some reason though, there’s only two of the four seasons of 9-1-1 on Disney Plus Star so far, but it’s well worth a watch and we’re sure the other two seasons should be along soon.

Doll Face (2019 – Present)

By the title alone, and the fact that it’s a weekly release, it initially looked like this series was set around a stereotypical break up and was destined for the bad list. However, the witty script, amazing female actors and relatable storyline made me put this series firmly within the good pile as I can’t wait to watch more. Kat Dennings takes the lead in the series and really brings to life upcoming writer Jordan Weiss’ story of female friendships after a breakup.

Films on Disney Plus Star

The Fault in Our Stars (2014)

This beautiful coming of age story, based on a book with the same name, is a great watch for all ages, not just teens. Be ready for oodles of romance, as well as teary and heart-warming moments, as you follow two teens affected by cancer as they set off on a journey of discovery.

The Favourite (2018)

We love a period drama, and this quirky look at the reign of Queen Anne is no exception. With starring roles from Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz, Emma Stone and Nicholas Hoult, it’s no wonder The Favourite had 336 nominations in award season and 182 wins. It’s definitely one of the best films from the last 5 years on Disney Plus Star.

Deadpool 2 (2018)

There are some examples coming up in these lists that give sequels a bad name, however, Deadpool 2 isn’t one of them. If you were putting off watching this one because of the sequel curse, don’t, it’s just as good – if not better – than the first. Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) is back as the foul-mouthed superhero and, this time, he brings some new friends: Domino (Zazie Beetz), Fire Fist (Julian Dennison) and Weasel (T.J. Miller) among others.


The Bad

There’s not as many on this ‘bad’ list as Star has done a pretty good job with their chosen titles. However, like any service, there are always a few bad eggs in our opinion… This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t watch these, it’s more of a warning that there may be better things to press play on.

Series on Disney Plus Star

Lost (2004 – 2010)

To be completely honest here, the first two seasons of Lost are very entertaining and interesting to watch, as you follow several people who try to survive a plane crash and have to adapt to life on a strange island. But, by the middle of season three, things start to get a little confusing and we found ourselves getting lost (pun intended) in the plot until the final sixth season, only to be hit with a heavily reported disappointing end… even worse than some people’s feelings about Game Of Thrones. So, we recommendation delving into some of the other series rather than this one.

24: Legacy (2017)

Trying to build another series from an established series can be very hit or miss – and this one was a huge miss. So much so that Fox axed it just after one series.

It takes on the same format as the original 24 series, where one season is just one day, however, this time they are trying to stop a terrorist attack. The format just doesn’t work with this storyline and you lose a lot of momentum and excitement, plus the acting just isn’t the best.

Films on Disney Plus Star

Independence Day: Resurgence (2016)

Just like building another series off a series, sequels can also be tricky beasts… some are good, some are bad and, when it follows an absolute classic like ‘Independence Day’, it needs to be amazing. Unfortunately, this one didn’t quite live up to the legacy of the first film; I mean, not even ‘Hunger Games’ Liam Hemsworth couldn’t get this to match up with the original. But it is still entertaining, so if you do decide to watch this one, just do so with caution.


The Classic

As you have probably already noticed there are some absolute classics on Disney Plus Star, so this is going to be the longest list, full of series that you can binge from start to finish and films that stand the test of time and can be re-watched repeatedly. Most of these titles don’t need much explanation as you’ll have already watched or heard about them, but you might not have spotted them yet on Disney Plus Star as some were buried deep in the archives.

Series on Disney Plus Star

X Files (1993 – 2001)

If you were born in the 90s or 00s, this one may have gone under your radar; however, once you watch the first season full of aliens, wired going ons and the brilliantly disjointed relationship of FBI agents, conspiracy theorist Fox Mulder and realist Dana Scully, you won’t want to stop watching. Granted some of the special effects are a little dated and unbelievable, but you will soon forget about that as you get sucked into the narrative.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer (1997 – 2002)

I know, I know, it’s hard to think there are people out there that haven’t watched a single vampire slaying, kick-ass, sci-fi loaded episode… but there is. If you are one of those people, what are you waiting for? Every single episode is here wating for you to binge. If you don’t fancy delving into the full thing, I would recommend at least taking a peek at the seventh episode of the sixth series (Once More, with Feeling: Buffy the Musical).

24 (2001 – 2014)

Before Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) burst on our screens in 2001, this kind of format for a series had never been attempted before and it just worked, so much so it ran for 9 seasons. It may seem odd at first, as each series is just one day, but you really do get sucked in.

Grey’s Anatomy (2005 – 2018)

Within its almost 13 years of being on air, this series has offered every heart-warming and breath-holding moment you need from a hospital-based drama. This would be a perfect series to start if you want something that will last you a while.

Sons of Anarchy (2008 – 2014)

Bikes, leather and action: what’s not to like? This series ran for a glorious 7 seasons, and within these episodes, there is storyline upon storyline that will keep you hooked and wanting to know more about the motorcycle club that straddles the line between legal and illegal.

Films on Disney Plus Star

(We’re pretty sure you will have watched most of these films, but they are well worth a re-watch)

Planet of the Apes (1968)

The film that started them all. Since the release of this film in 1968, there have been seven more sequels and remakes of the original sci-fi movie, two of which you can also watch on Disney Plus Star: Planet Of the Apes (2001) and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014).

Jewel of the Nile (1985)

It could possibly be that the countless TV showings over the have passed you by, but if you’ve not seen Jewel of the Nile, you should definitely give it a go. Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner and Danny DeVito are fantastic in this pure 80s romantic action comedy.

Cocktail (1988)

Sticking within the 80s romantic comedy realm, you’ve also got Cocktail, which is full of love ultimatums, with a dash of cheese. Come on, you know you want to watch a young Tom Cruise at work.

The Fly (1986)

One name – Jeff Goldblum. Watch it.

Pretty Woman (1990)

We were just as excited as the first time we watched it when we saw this classic on the service. To not watch this again would be a big mistake. HUGE.

Toys (1992)

This wonderfully wacky story by Valerie Curtin and Barry Levinson comes alive with the help of one of the best comedic actors of all time, Robin Williams, alongside the wonderful Joan Cusack and, bizarrely, LL Cool J.

What’s Love Got To Do With It (1993)

Whether you love Tina Turner’s music or not, it does not matter. This is one of the most interesting and inspirational biographical movies that you will ever watch. Word of warning, the incredible Angela Bassett and Lawrence Fishburne are so great at their roles that some of the more sensitive scenes are very realistic.

Braveheart (1995)

With any new service, there are glitches, and we found one! Whilst watching this absolute classic a few weeks ago, about two and a half hours into the film the screen when to the small screen format as if the credits had come up, making it difficult to watch the last part of the film. However, when we went to finish the film off a week later the glitch had been fixed and you can now watch the whole film without interruption… FREEDOM!

William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet (1996)

We all know that when it comes to film, Baz Luhrmann is a genius and he doesn’t disappoint with this abstract take on the story. It’s worth watching for the soundtrack alone.

Independence Day (1996)

90s Will Smith doing what he did best: lots of running, fighting and shouting – need I say more? Oh yes, you can also watch another one of his masterpieces, Enemy of the State (1998) on this service too.

Con Air (1997)

‘Put the bunny back in the box’ and sit down and watch this classic… we all know Nicholas Cage films can be a little unpredictable, but this film is definitely a hit, especially as he is joined by other legends of the screen, including John Malkovich, Steve Buscemi, John Cusack and Ving Rhames.

The Devil Wears Prada (2006)

Well if it’s at our fingertips, why not watch this film for the 56th time… this year.


So, there you have it, these are some of our highlights and must-miss titles from Disney Plus Star. Are there any that we missed? If so, comment below and let us know what category they belong in.


Check out the top 10 hidden gems in the other Disney Plus feeds HERE.

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