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Finding Neverland | Review

Family Plot

Forster serves up the best family film of the year.

Released at just the most opportune moment of the calendar year, this charming, heartfelt piece from Miramax is the type of film that doesn’t talk down to its characters – hopefully parents will avoid the usual mess of Holiday films that offer recycled Tim Allen characterizations in favor for this pleasant and intelligent tale about the enchanting world of make-belief. Johnny Depp (Secret Window) excels as Barrie – while similarities between his character and the king of pop may be a little disturbing at first – MJ’s ranch name and the notion of odd relationships between grown men and little boys are thankfully washed away by the sincere and spirited tone of the pic and the highly likeable message of the film. Finding Neverland finds the inner child within everyone.

Good family films are hard to come by these days – while Pixar and other animations studios have understood the concept “for children of all ages” – most studios have difficulty writing films that reward both audiences in one sitting. With the superior acting talents of Depp and a magical, and very Goody Two Shoes script from David Magee, Marc Forster’s careful attention to Allan Knee’s play “The Man Who Was Peter Pan” allows the medium of film to jive while with stage performances. The simple and positive dialogue and the visually lure of the sequences of backyard play that sees the imaginary world color the sometimes disappointing real world provided the positive backbone of the film. Actor Freddie Highmore as Peter and Kate Winslet (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) as the mother offer truthful portraits of suffering characters and a surprising good offering comes from a sidedish of Dustin Hoffman (I ♥ Huckabees) who plays the theatre owner with bills to pay.

While there are sometimes a couple of forceful pull-out-the-tissue cues – the overall gentleness and tastefulness of this picture will make everyone crack a smile – yes, even a non-CGI portrayal of Tinkerbelle can elate the sprits. With the added charm of the film set in 1903 – Finding Neverland is an easily digestible film – much less annoying than the loud slew of, dare I say it, animation films such as The Incredibles.

Rating 3.5 stars

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Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist, and critic at, established in 2000. A regular at Sundance, Cannes, and Venice, Eric holds a BFA in film studies from the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013, he served on the narrative competition jury at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson’s "This Teacher" (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022, he was a New Flesh Juror for Best First Feature at the Fantasia International Film Festival. Current top films for 2023 include The Zone of Interest (Glazer), Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell (Pham Thien An), Totem (Lila Avilés), La Chimera (Alice Rohrwacher), All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (Raven Jackson).

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