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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Hook (Superbit) (1991)

Tootles: Have to fly. Have to fight. Have to crow. Have to save Maggie. Have to save Jack. Hook is back.
Peter: Who?

- Arthur Malet, Robin Williams

Review By: Joel Cunningham   
Published: September 21, 2003

Stars: Robin Williams, Dustin Hoffman
Other Stars: Julia Roberts, Bob Hoskins, Maggie Smith, Caroline Goodall, Charlie Korsmo, Amber Scott, Arthur Malet
Director: Steven Spielberg

Manufacturer: DVDL
MPAA Rating: PG for (violence, including a violent death)
Run Time: 02h:21m:38s
Release Date: September 09, 2003
UPC: 043396059269
Genre: adventure

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C- C-A-B+ D-

DVD Review

Anyone who says that Steven Spielberg's most disappointing film is A.I. has forgotten about Hook. It starts with a great premise—what would happen if Peter Pan grew up and forgot about Neverland?—and wastes it on a thoughtless script and a sleepwalking director. The movie is as devoid of magic and adventure as the life of the adult Peter "Banning," a harried, humorless businessman who is afraid to fly and too distracted to connect with his kids.

Spielberg does well enough with the first quarter, before Peter discovers the truth about his past. A slightly less hairy Robin Williams (his arms were shaved repeatedly throughout production to give him a more boyish appearance) is surprisingly sedate as Peter, the workaholic who forgets his son Jack's (Charlie Korsmo) baseball games and never moves an inch without his cell phone (Spielberg overplays the evils of mobile communication just a bit—every time the thing rings, Peter is met with an icy glare from whichever family member is closest). The metaphor is fairly obvious—the modern world stresses money over magic, and distractions pull people apart—but Spielberg handles the familial angst fairly well.

Peter takes his family to London to attend a dinner in honor of Granny Wendy (Maggie Smith), who is the Wendy from the story (J.M. Barrie lived next door, it seems). Peter can't remember anything before his 12th birthday, but he does remember Wendy taking him in off the streets. Peter's kids stay in the same nursery from the book, with big windows that Peter demands stay closed (he's afraid of heights, ha ha). When the grownups get home from the party, the kids are gone, and there is a note from Captain Hook.

Wendy tells Peter about his past, but he doesn't believe her. Even when Tinkerbell (Julia Roberts, looking embarrassed to be there) shows up, he thinks he's hallucinating. What better way to convince him than to drag him away to the breathtaking isle of Neverland? If I were Peter, I wouldn't have been convinced. The film's Neverland is ugly and over designed, crammed with fakey props, hammy extras, and lifeless detail. It never looks like anything more than an expensive set. After an initial run-in with Hook (Dustin Hoffman, suitably broad if not particularly inspired), Peter makes his way to the Lost Boys hideout, which is even worse.

The grubby gang of Lost Boys is re-imagined as an ethnically diverse, politically correct band of punk kids who play basketball and rocket around Neverland on skateboards, of all things. Their leader in the place of Peter Pan, Rufio (Dante Basco), even has a big pink Mohawk. It's like Spielberg decided to jettison the timelessness of the novel in favor of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles trends. He misses the mark—I thought Hook's Lost Boys were dorky when I was ten, and they don't look much better now.

The Neverland scenes drag on and on (the film runs an unfathomable two-and-a-half hours) as Peter slowly remembers his old life, which included food fights with colorful, fake-looking pudding (appropriate, I guess, since the kids only imagine eating it anyway) and insult competitions with other boys (most of them involve words or concepts relating to the "butt"). I suppose we're supposed to be enchanted by the magic of Neverland, but it's all so tiresome. The kids constantly refer to things as "bangarang," and it seems like the screenwriters spent more time coming up with the catchphrase than actually doing something interesting with their story.

To get his kids back, Peter has to fight with Hook, who misses the good old days of getting beaten and maimed by a pre-pubescent boy. He is given no real motive for wanting to clash again with Peter, and Hoffman, at a loss, decides to be utterly grotesque (the makeup helps). Williams is less likeable, whether he's Banning or Pan—his "little boy" routine is particularly cringe worthy—but he's ok.

The real culprit here is Spielberg, who tried to make another E.T. and wound up with a hollow shell of false sentiment. Any scene with a child in it is indeterminably cloying (if all the shots of upturned, smiling faces bathed in the golden light of innocence were removed, the movie would be about an hour shorter), and as the film ends, and ends, and ends, we can feel Spielberg reaching for an emotional payoff that just isn't there. He still pries out a tear or two, with the help of an offensive John Williams score that doesn't leave the audience a minute to actually think about the emotion of a scene before they're told what to feel, but in the end, we're left with few happy thoughts, or really, any thoughts at all.

Rating for Style: C-
Rating for Substance: C-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: This new Superbit release features wonderful image quality, but then, the non-Superbit edition looked very nice as well. Both appear to be from the same source print, but the Superbit benefits from a higher bit rate (the previous release featured both widescreen and fullscreen transfers on opposite sides of a DVD-10). Aside from some distracting print flaws in processed special effects shots and some occasional slight edge enhancement, I noticed few problems. Colors are saturated and stable, blacks are solid, and aliasing and artifacting aren't readily apparent.

If you already have the original release, or you're deciding which edition to buy, note that the Superbit looks better (the first disc showed some artifacting), but the difference isn't staggering.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: This disc features comparable DD 5.1 and DTS (the only difference between them seems to be that the latter is louder). Both feature very strong, wide front soundstages, with crisp, clear dialogue, excellent stereo separation, and frequent panning and directional effects. John William's overbearing score sounds especially nice. But the surrounds are surprisingly restrained, featuring only occasional enhancement of the score and the rare sound effect. The film was presented in surround sound in theaters, so I can only wonder if the sound design simply ignored the rear channels.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, Thai with remote access
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extras Review: Hey, it's a Superbit, the line of DVDs marketed for their lack of supplements, what do you expect? For what it's worth, the original release featured only a trailer.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

Hook is one of Spielberg's worst films, deeply flawed and only sporadically entertaining. I hope the 2003 adaptation of Peter Pan recaptures some of the magic of the original story, because you'll find none of it here. The DVD features stellar picture and audio quality, but then, the last release did too. Superbit fans, you have a decision on your hands.


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