I noticed in Roger Ebert’s book, Awake in the Dark, that he classes Stephen Spielberg’s movie, Hook, as one of Spielberg's failures. This surprises me; it’s a superbly made movie, has excellent performances from Dustin Hoffman and Bob Hoskins, (who form a hilarious partnership), a controlled one from Robin Williams that keeps the character in perspective; two marvellous kids – Charlie Korsmo and Amber Scott; and solid supporting performances from Maggie Smith, Julia Roberts and Caroline Goodall.
When I first saw it a few things grated: the roller-skating Lost Boys and some of their other toys that seemed out of place, and Julia Roberts herself. But 16 years on these are minor quibbles. Roberts exudes her usual warmth and has the disadvantage of almost never acting ‘live’ with anyone, which she overcomes in general. The updating of the Lost Boys is woven into the story without much problem, and once accepted, is no longer a concern. The Lost Boys themselves are a marvellous bunch, wonderfully cast, and the performance by Dante Basco as Rufio is full of emotion. (Basco, incidentally, is one of four brothers all working in Hollywood and on TV.)
I’ve watched the movie several times over the years, and it always resonates with me, more than I remember E.T. doing so. The whole business with the father/son thing has particular emotional content for me, and perhaps makes me more partial to it, but it isn’t just that. Spielberg takes a mythic quality story and extends it in a number of directions and manages to make it all work. The design of the movie is a delight, full of magical touches (the appearance of the ‘hook’ throughout, for instance) and there is a great deal of subtle humour (when Tinkerbell flies Peter to Never-Neverland, a tramp on the bridge is lifted off his feet as they pass – not in close-up, but quite casually as part of the shot). Furthermore there’s considerable emotion in the piece: after a number of ‘casual’ and sometimes comic pirate deaths, there’s the real death of Rufio at the end. And the gradual disgust felt by Jack at his father’s lack of interest and lack of ability to save him, is strongly portrayed.
So, Roger, I think for once you were wrong. Maybe the popcorn wasn’t tasting so good that day.