|Finding Neverland (2004)
Starring: Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet, Julie Christie, Dustin Hoffman
Director: Marc Forster
Every once and a while, a film comes along that is injected with so much emotion that it must eventually be passed on to the audience through some compilation of clever jokes, tear-jerking monologues and an overall warm-heartedness. Sometimes dubbed “feel-good” movies, the point of the entire production is usually centered on abusing the moviegoer’s thin-layered feelings in order to capitalize on a big, box office draw. “Finding Neverland” is not that kind of film, but it’ll definitely give most people the sniffles by the arrival of its dramatic conclusion. Starring Oscar-contending heavyweights Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet, Marc Forster’s “Finding Neverland” may just be the purest film of the entire season.
Depp stars in one of the most earthbound roles of his career as the Scottish-born playwright, J.M. Barrie, who is quickly fading from the theater circuit after a number of mediocre productions molded for the upper-class and is long due for a masterpiece. The modest writer finds his inspiration in Sylvia Davies (Winslet), a widowed mother, and her four young boys (most notably Freddie Highmore, who plays the middle child Peter). Through a series of role-playing games with the children as pirates and Indians, the playwright unleashes a magical imagination for his best-known work, “Peter Pan,” while the Barrie’s marriage is jeopardized with scandalous rumors of an affair with the beautiful widow.
Surrounded by an aura of innocence and led by an incredible cast of four young actors just being boys and Hollywood A-listers displaying their inner child, “Finding Neverland” is joyously entertaining and will surely be one of the top go-getters at the awards next year. Depp and Winslet both provide wonderful performances for Best Actor/Actress nominations, the script will most likely get a nod for Best Adapted Screenplay and director Marc Forster could receive one as well, but the most surprising element of the entire film is little Freddie Highmore, who has finally proven that child actors don’t always ruin a good movie.
Highmore, who will also appear alongside Depp next year in Tim Burton’s vision of the classic Roald Dahl children’s book, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” has a good chance at taking home a golden statue of his own. Playing the most emotional and mature child of the four boys, Highmore displays laudable acting talents for a kid so young and deserves to be a part of the Best Supporting Actor category. I’d like to recommend this film simply for its wonderful performances and enchanting story, but it is also slowed down by bothersome faults in pace and tone. Don’t let this get in the way of an enjoyable trip to the movies although, because “Finding Neverland” is most likely one of the best films you will see all year.
The DVD release for the widescreen edition of “Finding Neverland” doesn’t leave much up to the imagination with a disappointing supply of special features. Among the highlights of the disc is the full-length audio commentary by director Marc Forster, producer Richard Gladstein and writer David Magee and a five-minute outtake reel from the film. Also included is the 16-minute featurette “The Magic of Finding Neverland,” the incredibly short “Creating Neverland” and “On the Red Carpet,” and three deleted scenes with optional director commentary.