Finding Neverland

January 28, 2012 8 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

Kate Winslet starred in two of last year’s best movies, “Finding Neverland” and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” and while her Oscar nomination was for the latter – she could have very easily been nominated again for “Finding Neverland”. Johnny Depp, who is currently enjoying a string of several hit (both commercial and critical) movies, except for “Secret Window”, was also nominated for his role as J.M. Barrie. The movie is less about “Peter Pan” and more of how Barrie was inspired to write it. “Peter Pan” has undergone countless animated and filmed renditions but I feel that this might be the best telling of the “boy who wouldn’t grow up”. Depp had the arduous task of playing a dignified novelist, yet someone who could have the free spirit of a child. I really don’t think that I could think of anyone else but Johnny Depp in this role and he pulls it off with perfection.

As mentioned above, Depp plays J.M. Barrie, a semi-successful playwright in London who keeps looking for that perfect play. He’s financed by Charles Frohman (Dustin Hoffman), a rich New York man who complains about producing the plays but yet still keeps forking out the money. After Barrie’s latest flop he becomes inspired when he meets Sylvia Davies (Kate Winslet), the widowed mother of four boys. He forms an unlikely bond with the family helping them out financially and spending so much time with them that rumors begin to arise. Barrie is married to Mary (Radha Mitchell), a wife who patience has run out while waiting for her husband to grow up. As Barrie continues to write his new play (Peter Pan), we see the relationship between he and Sylvia grow. The children act as his muse and though the play seems a bit off the wall – we know in hindsight that it’ll be his greatest work.

“Finding Neverland” is more of a historical essay on the genius that is J.M. Barrie. I initially found it rather dull and dragging, but about halfway through found myself really getting into it. When he starts writing “Peter Pan”, the characters really take off and so does the film. I have to admit that though the movie was based on true events, a lot seemed to be left out. I recently read where it was suggested that Barrie might have had a particular “fondness” for children. This and several other elements were wisely left out of the film and the result is near perfect. “Finding Neverland” is truth that you can’t judge a book by its cover. Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet are in their top form and watch out for Ensligh-newcomer Freddie Highmore who plays Peter (the boy Peter that inspired the character) as he’s set to star in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” with Depp later this year. Give “Finding Neverland” a chance, I found it well-deserved of its Best Picture nomination and a very good rendition of an all-time classic.

Video: How does it look?

“Finding Neverland” is shown in a very nice-looking 2.35:1 anamorphic image from Universal. For the most part, the image is clean and crisp but still has some of the “dreary ‘ol English” atmosphere about it. When I say this, I mean that it’s not a fault of how the disc looks, rather that the colors are rather subdued and don’t look as bright and vivid as most other movies out there. There are some scenes in which the color leaps off the screen and the transfer shows this off in fine form. Edge enhancement is not an issue and I have to say that I was very impressed by the level of detail. “Finding Neverland” is also available in a full-frame version should you want to miss nearly half the image. All in all, it’s a great transfer and one that shows up well on DVD.

Audio: How does it sound?

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack does a fine job here, but it’s nothing to write home about! I found the dialogue to be very clean and clear with surrounds adding a bit of depth here and there. Most of the action takes place in the front three channels, so the surrounds don’t have a lot to add here. Dialogue, as one might imagine, does play a very important role and it’s nice to have such a clean-sounding center channel. The LFE were almost non-existent for the most part, though I remembered a few times when the .1 channel kicked in. On the whole, it’s not the greatest soundtrack out there but it’s certainly not the worst either.

Supplements: What are the extras?

“Finding Neverland” has just about the right amount of supplements. First up is an audio commentary with audio commentary with director Marc Forster, producer Richard Gladstein, and writer David Magee. This is a pretty engaging track, though dry at times (I mean they are English, you know)! Three featurettes are also included: “The Magic of Finding Neverland” which focuses on the backstory as well as how the movie came to be. Interviews with the cast and crew provide some insight. I found this a pretty informative featurette. Next up is “Creating Neverland” which focuses on the special effects of the movie. One shot that I was particularly impressed with was near the end when the camera permeates through the audience and ends up at Peter. This shows how this was done and was informative to boot. Lastly is “On the Red Carpet” which shows clips from the film’s premiere. Next up are three deleted scenes which can be watched individually or with director’s commentary. I found these interesting as well and was curious as to why they were cut. Turns out it was the old issue: pacing. Several outtakes were shown as well, but these seemed to actually be funny as opposed to just seeing the actors laugh. Depp and his on screen wife acted drunk during the whole dinner scene which was priceless! All in all, this features a good assortment of extras (though somewhat lacking) and a movie that proves you can’t judge a book by its cover. Recommended.

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