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Monday, December 13, 2004

Movie Review: Finding Neverland 

A century's worth of children have grown up hearing the tale about Peter Pan, the boy that unlike them, refused to grow up. Finding Neverland tells the story of J.M. Barrie, the man behind the boy, who like his most famous character, also shunned adulthood.

Johnny Depp plays the role of Barrie, delivering as fine a performance as I've seen from him. Depp brings life, not just to Barrie's work, but to Barrie himself. Who is this man that authored one of literature's most magical characters? Depp shows us.

Finding Neverland is the story behind the story, yes, but it's really the story behind the man. It's Barrie that dares us to dream. It's Barrie that unlocks our imagination. And it's Depp that unlocks the Peter Pan inside of Barrie.

Kate Winslet, as you might expect, helps a great deal. As Sylvia Llewellyn-Davies, she acts as Barrie's muse, along with her four children, and their willingness to submit to Barrie's imaginative encouragement helps set the stage for Neverland, both literally and figuratively.

It's a simple story, really. A chance encounter in the park leads Barrie to Sylvia and her boys. Before long he fills in a father-figure in their lives, yet he chooses to live vicariously through them, as his own life has drifted far from the care-free path he had envisioned. Feeding off of their youthful vigor he finds himself, so to speak, and with that a legend is born.

Yes, it's a simple story. A film needn't be complex, though, to be great. Depp and Winslet bring a level of emotion to Finding Neverland that, when combined with a surreal style of filmmaking that often folds fantasy into reality, results in an experience almost as magical as the exploits of Peter Pan himself. It will make you laugh and bring you to tears. Most importantly, it might just inspire you to dream.



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