Directed by: Robin Budd, Donovan Cook
Starring: Harriet Owen, Blayne Weaver, Corey Burton
With "faith, trust and pixie dust, anything is possible." And so it seems -- almost -- in Return to Never Land, the first-ever sequel to Disney's beloved Peter Pan original. Nearly 50 years have passed since 1953, when the boy who refused to grow up and his band of Lost Boys first took kids on an unforgettable adventure on the "second star to the right." The desire to fly like birds, to be free from the restriction of gravity and plodding reality, is a deep-seated primal urge, shared by people all over the world. If for no other reason than to be captivated by the sheer joy of an atavistic dream, parents will enjoy taking the kids to Return to Never Land. The follow-up story still takes place in London, but it's a much harsher, more frightening place than the romantic city of the original. Now it's London during the Blitzkrieg of World War II. Wendy is all grown up, with two children of her own. Little Danny loves his mother's fascinating tales of her childhood adventures with Peter Pan. But her daughter, Jane (voice of Harriet Owen), is another story. Jane's childhood has been stolen by the harsh realities of war, death streaming down from bombs overhead, air-raid sirens that scream throughout the night -- and by fathers who leave their families for foreign battlefields, some to never return. For Jane, there is no room for fun -- much less fantasy -- in a life full of adult fears and responsibilities. She's a pretty glum soul until the night she gets kidnapped by Captain Hook (voice of Corey Burton) and whisked off to Never Land. Hook wants her as a hostage to force Peter Pan (voice of Blayne Weaver) to return the treasure he's stolen from him. Jane, unlike Wendy before her, is feisty and defiant and, much to the Lost Boys' disappointment, she has no intention of being their mother. In fact, all Jane wants to do is get back home to take care of her brother Danny and her other duties. A laudable motive, certainly, for refusing to hang out with a guy wearing tights and cool pointy shoes. But the only way Jane can get back to London is to fly, and for that she needs pixie dust. In other words, she needs to make friends with the jealous Tinker Bell. Instead, she clings to her be-realistic stance and denies fairies exist. As everyone knows, fairies die if no one believes in them, so Jane's insistence on being grownup has severe consequences for Tinker Bell. But, as many little girls already know, when the situation seems hopeless, just cry your heart out and amazing things start to happen. For those of us who loved the original, Peter Pan still grins so charmingly that no human teenage boy can ever equal it; Tinker Bell still has the best pom-pom shoes on the planet; and the Lost Boys still do wonderful gross-out stuff like spit on their hands and rub them together in oaths of loyalty. All the violence is cute and giggly and the kids do genuinely love it. Most importantly, the animation is truly wonderful -- particularly the pixie dust that glitters and tinkles and works its magic like nothing else in movies ever has. With so much going for the movie, it seems grinchy to complain about things like the lukewarm script, the disappointing absence of the Captain Hook's tick-tocking crocodile, and the totally sappy music. Be sure to come on time and you'll forgive Never Land's lapses for the chance to see a classic Disney cartoon -- Pluto's Fledgling -- in which the floppy-eared canine teaches a baby bird how to fly. This brilliant cartoon alone is worth the price of admission.