A surprisingly bland sequel from Disney which should’ve headed straight to video like “Cinderella 2” and all the rest, “Return to Neverland” is a big step back for the studio who in recent months has been riding the crest of strong family films with the likes of “Monsters Inc” and IMAX “Beauty and the Beast”.
Containing none of the charm, atmosphere or sense of childish fun of the 1953 original, even the animation seems somewhat primitive (short of the CG pirate ship) compared with the near five decade old original. When this project was first announced many thought it would just be an animated version of a story like the disappointing Spielberg flick “Hook”.
Thankfully its avoided that trap, instead relying on basically a carbon copy of the original minus the secondary kids – just a prim and proper Wendy who has to learn that she’s still a kid. The lost boys are no longer endearing, Smee’s bumbling is limited to one or two bad jokes, and Neverland itself hasn’t changed much at all except for maybe feeling quieter and smaller in scope – giving the story a very languid feel whilst Pan himself no longer seems like a cocky young lad but an arrogant little prick.
The only saving grace proves to be the original Wendy and a likeable dog who only appears in the very opening and closing of the film. Story wise, acting wise and technical wise this is a disappointing effort on all levels, and at even a tiny 62 minute runtime – still feels overlong. Not worth a video rental let alone a film ticket.