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Marc Forster
Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet, Dustin Hoffman
Writing Credits:
David Magee

The story of JM Barrie's friendship with a family who inspired him to create Peter Pan.

Box Office:
$25 million.
Opening Weekend
$1,960,122 on 985 screens.
Domestic Gross

Rated PG

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English Uncompressed 5.1
English Dolby 5.1
Spanish Dolby 5.1
Chinese Traditional
Supplements Subtitles:
Chinese Traditional

Runtime: 101 min.
Price: $9.99
Release Date: 3/20/2007

• Audio Commentary with Director Marc Forster, Producer Richard Gladstein, and Writer David Magee
• “The Magic of Finding Neverland” Featurette
• “Creating Neverland” Featurette
• “On the Red Carpet” Featurette
• Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary
• Outtakes
• “Movie Showcase”
• Previews


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver
-Sony UBP-X800 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


Finding Neverland [Blu-Ray] (2004)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 12, 2018)

During the commentary for Finding Neverland, the filmmakers mention that they almost titled it JM Barrie’s Neverland. They rejected it because they thought only Peter Pan fanatics would recognize the author’s name.

I don’t agree with that. While I suppose many folks think Walt Disney created the character, I think Barrie maintains pretty good name recognition.

Whatever the case may be, since it focuses on the author, Finding Neverland should ensure that more people know of Barrie’s work. Set in London circa 1903, Neverland launches with opening night for a new play written by Barrie (Johnny Depp). To the disappointment of Barrie, wife Mary (Radha Mitchell) and producer Charles Frohman (Dustin Hoffman), the production stiffs.

When Barrie takes his dog to the park, he meets widow Sylvia Llewelyn Davies (Kate Winslet) and her four sons: Michael (Luke Spill), Jack (Joe Prospero), Peter (Freddie Highmore) and George (Nick Roud). Barrie entertains them as he plays with dog Porthos, and they meet up again on future occasions. This lights up Barrie’s imagination and eventually inspires him to write Peter Pan.

However, his interactions with Sylvia and the others don’t come without a price. Of the four boys, Peter presents the biggest challenge.

He took his father’s death the hardest and acts in an aloof, distant manner. In addition, Mary clearly doesn’t approve of Barrie’s dalliance with Sylvia, though she views the situation as an opportunity to move up socially, as Sylvia’s mothe Emma du Maurier (Julie Christie) is a notable in posh circles. Unfortunately, Emma frowns on Barrie’s involvement with the family, so a dinner with all involved goes poorly.

Those issues play a part in Neverland, though they don't act as the major topics. Instead, Barrie's relationships with Sylvia and the boys - especially Peter - come to the forefront. Matters intensify when Sylvia takes ill, and the movie follows what happens to all involved and the development of Peter Pan.

When I saw the previews for Neverland, I thought they failed to give the movie a good sense of identity. The ads combined fantasy, drama, and comedy in such a way that it looked like the film didn’t know what it wanted to be. This doesn’t mean I think flicks can’t combine all those elements and still work well - 2003’s Big Fish did the trick - but the varying genres create a challenge.

Unfortunately, Neverland only sporadically lives up to that challenge. Indeed, I thought of Big Fish quite a lot as I watched Neverland, as the latter shoots for a Tim Burton style of whimsy, but it usually fails to deliver.

The fantasy mostly comes from the way we see Barrie’s view of events. For instance, when he watches the stern Emma reprimand one of the boys, she mutates into Captain Hook in Barrie’s mind, and we see that change. This sounds like a good idea but fails to mesh with the events, as instead, it feels forced.

Other filmmaking techniques strike me as self-conscious. For example, when Peter has a tantrum, the camera goes hand-held.

The transition moves awkwardly and jars the viewer in an unintended manner. These choices simply come across as examples of the director trying too hard to impress and they don’t serve the story.

While a little comedy appears, mostly the film concentrates on melodrama, and matters grow more and more leaden as it goes. Sylvia’s illness becomes a big issue, but we also have marital discord and Peter’s maladjustment.

While these should add depth to the piece, mostly they just distract from what I’d like to see: the creation of a classic. There’s a good nugget of a story in place, as it’d be cool to hear more about what really happened to influence Barrie’s play, but largely the film presents a saccharine look at the personal concerns.

To its credit, I will acknowledge that Neverland offers some very effective moments toward its end. I won’t go into the details because they may involve spoilers, but the film’s conclusion finally manages to blend the fantasy and emotion in a very satisfying way. It’s the only moment of true, earned feeling in the entire flick, as for one brief segment, it transcends the gooeyness to become moving and magical.

Unfortunately, it’s a struggle to watch much of the rest of the film. The movie devolves into too much sappy melodrama and fails to deliver a lot of compelling material or real emotion. The ending redeems things to a degree, but it doesn’t alleviate the tedium of the rest of the flick.

The Disc Grades: Picture C-/ Audio B/ Bonus B-

Finding Neverland appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu—ray Disc. A Blu-ray from the format’s early days, this one showed its age.

A number of the concerns connected to sharpness. At best, the movie demonstrated decent to good delineation, but an awful lot of soft shots materialized. In particular, wider elements tended to be surprisingly ill-defined.

No problems with jagged edges or shimmering popped up, but I saw mild edge haloes at times throughout the flick. No signs of source flaws appeared, though the movie often looked grainer than usual, and I suspect some digital noise became part of the package.

Much of Neverland went with a subdued palette, as cool teal and reds pervaded much of the flick, and the tone stayed restrained most of the time. A few of the fantasy sequences brought out more vibrant hues, but colors never became memorable. The tones stayed passable but somewhat flat much of the time.

Blacks were deep and natural, while low-light shots depicted acceptable delineation. The image was just good enough for a “C-“ but I was sorely tempted to drop it to “D” levels, as it offered a disappointment.

Although the Uncompressed 5.1 soundtrack of Finding Neverland boasted more ambition than I expected, it still stayed with a generally restricted presentation, and mostly the mix emphasized general ambience. The fantasy sequences added greater spark, and various elements moved around the spectrum pretty well.

Nonetheless, things usually stayed calm, with good stereo imaging and some useful environmental elements. The surrounds added solid reinforcement - especially during storms - and the occasional unique piece, but they were usually restrained.

Across the board, the movie demonstrated good audio quality. Speech was consistently concise and natural, and I detected no edginess or issues with intelligibility.

Effects rarely taxed my system, but they were accurate and well-defined. They showed good range.

Music was bright and vivid and also offered solid dimensionality. There wasn’t much to impress, but the audio of Neverland was perfectly satisfactory.

How did the Blu-ray compare to the original DVD from 2005? The uncompressed audio offered a bit more punch compared to the lossy mix on the DVD, and visuals might’ve been a bit tighter and more vibrant – but just a bit. Honestly, the image rarely looked better than what I’d expect from a DVD – it really lacked the panache and detail Blu-ray should bring.

The Blu-ray repeats the DVD’s extras, and the main attraction comes from an audio commentary with director Marc Forster, producer Richard Gladstein, and writer David Magee. All three sit together for this running, screen-specific discussion. Though the commentary covers a lot of good topics, it never quite congeals to become something special.

We do hear about a lot of production topics. The men provide notes about the cast and their work, improvisation, comparisons between fact and the movie’s fiction, the script and changes made along the way, costumes, locations, music, and various filmmaking decisions.

Quite a few nice details emerge along the way, such as how Dustin Hoffman was supposed to read some of Hook’s lines from the play but refused, and the three men interact in a genial and natural way. I also like the remarks about alternate titles, and the participants even note that they don’t much like the final choice of Finding Neverland.

So why do I view this as a less-than-stellar commentary? Because some of the usual problems emerge along the way. Dead air isn’t a big problem, but it creeps in at times.

The tendency toward praise for everything and everyone involved turns into a bigger nuisance, though, and those elements drag down the track with moderate frequency. Nonetheless, this remains a fairly informative and enjoyable piece.

Next comes a 16-minute, seven-second featurette called The Magic of Finding Neverland. We get interviews with Forster, Magee, Gladstein, producer Nellie Bellflower, author Andrew Birkin, Great Ormond Street Hospital’s Kit Palmer, and actors Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet, Joe Prospero, Nick Roud, Radha Mitchell, and Dustin Hoffman.

They discuss the continuing appeal of Peter Pan, the plot and theme of Neverland, the cast and their talents, the director and his style, the original stage production of Pan and related elements, prior film versions of the play, and the production’s beneficial legacy.

Since “Magic” runs a little longer than most promotional featurettes, I hoped it would present some substance. Unfortunately, it stays with very superficial matters.

I learned a little about the history of Pan, and it was slightly cool to get glimpses of other films with Depp and Winslet, but I didn’t find much of interest here. The featurette failed to inform us about useful issues.

In Creating Neverland, we get a three-minute, five-second piece. It looks at the visual effects with comments from Forster, visual effects designer Kevin Tod Haug, and visual effects producer Leslie McMinn.

They talk about the styles used for the fantasy sequences and how they were executed. It’s too short a program to be terribly meaningful, but it packs some decent information. At least it’s better than “Magic”.

On the Red Carpet runs a mere two minutes, 25 seconds as it shows some of the cast and crew as they enter one of the flick’s premieres. Hillary Clinton shows up too! Three Deleted Scenes appear next. These last a total of two minutes, 41 seconds and feature “Pretend You Still Care” (0:50), “Only Grown-Ups Can Have Children” (0:42), and “Depending on JM Barrie” (1:02).

The first shows more tension between Barrie and his wife, while the second depicts a quick interchange in which Barrie tells Michael why he doesn’t have any kids. Finally, “Barrie” gives us a comic look at Sylvia’s growing dependence on JM. None of them are very interesting, so they all were sensible cuts.

We can watch these with or without optional commentary from Forster, Gladstein and Magee. They let us know where the scenes would have come in the movie and also explain why they were removed. The participants provide a good overview of those issues.

A five-minute, 33-second collection of Outtakes follows. Though I normally dislike these batches of foul-ups, this one works better than usual.

That’s largely because of the way Depp reacts to mistakes as well as his improvs. Some of the shots of Pan actors as they fly into walls become amusing too.

Under Movie Showcase, we’re told we’ll get “instant access to the filmmaker’s most cinematic moments that showcase the ultimate in high definition picture and sound”. What this means is that we find an alternate form of chapter search, as the “Showcase” links to three short clips that run a total of three minutes, seven seconds. The “Showcase” feels pointless to me.

The disc opens with ads for Invincible and The Prestige. No trailer for Neverland appears here.

Although Finding Neverland occasionally fires on most cylinders, it falters too much of the time to become a generally fulfilling film. Honestly, parts of it go into TV movie territory due to various obstacles that occur. The Blu-ray presents acceptable audio and a decent roster of supplements but visuals disappoint. The movie really needs a new transfer, as this one barely surpasses DVD standards.

To rate this film, visit the prior review of FINDING NEVERLAND

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