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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 36.02%
Just Average: 13.98%
Pretty Crappy: 4.84%
Sucks: 6.45%

14 reviews, 102 user ratings

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Finding Neverland
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by Robert Flaxman

"Unimaginably unimaginative."
3 stars

Films about writers can be tricky. How do you get inside the head of someone who wrote fiction to determine how they came up with all their ideas? Finding Neverland tries, but it really doesnít try very hard. Instead, it produces a straightforward narrative and a film that is almost intensely average. Though its subject is a man known for a play whose magic has delighted people of all ages for decades, the film itself is rather unimaginative.

J.M. Barrie (Johnny Depp) has just seen his most recent play bomb spectacularly. With his marriage in decline and his backer (Dustin Hoffman) worried about getting back on track, he meets Sylvia Llewelyn-Davies (Kate Winslet) and begins a friendship with her and her four sons that evidently led to the creation of Peter Pan, which was a tremendous success (and without which Barrie would today be all but unknown).

The film condenses events from real life, which is only to be expected. Iíve always been inclined to cut films slack on this count Ė the movieís the thing, after all, and real life is not always as dramatically interesting or convenient. At any rate, unless the shift in reality drastically misrepresents the actual events, it rarely seems worth being that picky, and such is the case here. The fudging of reality is not Finding Neverlandís problem.

Would that it were, though, as the filmís biggest woe is much more problematic than a few altered biographical tidbits. Finding Neverland presents itself as a film about the power of imagination, explaining how Barrie could transform role-playing with a family into one of the most beloved plays of all time. While itís true that he performed that feat, the film is at a loss to actually show it. Rather than really getting inside Barrieís head, the film is more interested in just going through the narrative motions. At best, Finding Neverland offers suggestions of where certain parts of the play came from, but even those are few and far between. For all the film cares, most of the story sprang from thin air.

This would undoubtedly be more forgivable if the relationship between Barrie and the Davies family were drawn deeper, but it remains regrettably shallow. There is some sense that Barrie cares a lot about Sylvia and the boys, but most of their time is limited to playing games of one sort or another. As Sylvia begins having some medical problems, the tone gets more somber, but the emotions never really come to the surface.

Most of the film is just stuck in the mud, not really going anywhere. Itís made well enough never to be bad, but there isnít much that jumps out. Even the acting is middle of the road Ė Depp is excellent in that he makes you forget heís Johnny Depp, which is a hard thing to do, but Winsletís performance is surprisingly nondescript. Julie Christie, as Winsletís mother, cuts a mean figure and has a nice redemption scene near the end, and Dustin Hoffman gets all the good lines, but neither veteran is asked to do all that much. The various doe-eyed imps playing the Davies brood rarely sound like anything other than children reading lines.

Finding Neverland proves that Barrieís thoughts were magical, but its depiction of his life is pretty pedestrian. Play-acting alone did not make him a creative genius Ė if anything, it was the output of what was already there. If the film is anything to go by, his effect on the Davies family was much greater than the reverse. That would be okay except that the film wants things to be the opposite Ė it wants to show that Barrieís adventures with this family inspired his masterwork. It just doesnít come across that way.

The great irony behind Finding Neverland is that itís a film about a man with a seemingly unlimited imagination, and yet it has so little of its own. Thereís nothing novel, clever, or truly even all that interesting about the picture; its heart seems to be in the right place, but itís all thumbs when pressed into action. Finding Neverland isnít an unpleasant way to pass two hours, but itís a rather uninspiring one.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=10919&reviewer=385
originally posted: 01/29/05 02:18:14
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Chicago Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Chicago Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Mill Valley Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Mill Valley Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Leeds Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Leeds Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Palm Springs Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Palm Springs Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

10/18/09 Liberty Man Great story and Depp as he should be. Enough with the pirate already. 5 stars
10/05/09 Bryony An amazing film I cry everytime lol Kate & Johnny both did an AMAZING job I love it!!! 5 stars
12/11/08 charles surmion its so cool i want to try and try... 4 stars
9/25/08 Shaun Wallner Great story! 5 stars
5/08/08 Courtney This movie is corny, boring and has expected 'twists' 1 stars
2/17/08 SamanthaP Johnny and Kate Winslet were amazing as always, and it was super sad at the end. 5 stars
9/04/07 John Just amazing 5 stars
8/11/07 Tiffany Losco Boring, I didn't like it. 2 stars
5/16/07 mia It was a sad story that contains inspiring messages 5 stars
1/15/07 jeannie karlsen Looking at Johnny Depp was enough of a reward, plot was however, boring 4 stars
11/10/06 Bill Hi all 4 stars
9/07/06 Thomas Semesky FINDING NEVERLAND! Fine me a plot first. Boring!! 2 stars
7/13/06 EZ To bad there is no 0 stars rating 1 stars
6/11/06 Dave Webber I thought this was totally maudlin and manupulative, 2 stars
5/21/06 Diane P very charming, my daughter enjoyed it as well 4 stars
5/05/06 Ashley Hinz I don't like Johnny Depp, but I enjoyed this. 4 stars
2/09/06 Samantha A nice twist for adults on the classic story, while children might find it boring 4 stars
10/14/05 Yves Caraan I didnt enjoy watching 2 stars
10/11/05 Jennifer Free You would think that it was for kids, but they were totally bored, and so was I. 3 stars
9/19/05 Jonathon Holmes perfect filmmaking at its finest 5 stars
9/14/05 Koopy the Loopy I love Kate, but this was a little too boring 3 stars
9/13/05 ray mero Two of the boys he helped raise committed suicide...the movie is a sappy and demented. 1 stars
8/25/05 EZ Let's go make make the worst play ever while talking with the worst accent possilbe 1 stars
8/19/05 Sara B. Slow to get going, at times oddly NOT engaging. Still has charm for Depp fans. 4 stars
8/12/05 yuko brilliant actors and story 5 stars
7/26/05 Laura Lee Macleod Kinda boring...but Depp is a magnificent actor 3 stars
6/17/05 Andy Far better than the professional critics suggest. Switch off the analysis, let it happen 4 stars
6/16/05 DM Sappy in places but very well-acted. 4 stars
5/28/05 Jake Good film but not oscar worthy 4 stars
5/21/05 Cham Great acting, pretty moving, way too sappy for words. 3 stars
5/05/05 Kristi Achilleos very good movie! pleasant to watch :) 4 stars
4/30/05 Steve Newman Absolutely excellent. Some moments makes you feel uneasy - awesome 5 stars
4/29/05 Charlie Crappy ending, but an interesting plot and story. 3 stars
4/28/05 kathleen4691 A great family film...for parents who want their kids to learn about extramarital affairs. 2 stars
4/22/05 Kim Great fantasy. 4 stars
4/19/05 Sharon Fernando Excellent glimpse into Peter Pan's inspiration. 4 stars
4/16/05 David Siegel Better than the professional reviews. A good background "study". 4 stars
4/08/05 Denise wonderful 5 stars
4/04/05 killbill03 If you can buy into it, you may really like it. 4 stars
3/28/05 Charlene Javier Gets better after repeated viewings... 5 stars
3/27/05 Emma Excellent, one of my favourite films. 5 stars
2/19/05 lj wouldn't see it twice 3 stars
2/18/05 Captain Craig I didnt think truly great film could be made anymore. Every aspect was suberb! 5 stars
2/15/05 Melody Arneil One of the few films of 2004 that moved me to tears. LOVED IT! 5 stars
2/14/05 Angela Saunders Great movie, definite must see for a Peter Pan fan! 4 stars
2/10/05 H.P. Lovecraft I expected a little bit more for a best picture nominee. 3 stars
2/05/05 axe Like "Pan", better experienced in an audience with children. 4 stars
2/04/05 Melissa Johnny Depp - couldn't have been better! 5 stars
2/04/05 Ann Klonicki Johnny Depp is superb 5 stars
2/03/05 Mirella Rodriguez Who doesn't love Johnny? Great movie, great acting. 4 stars
2/03/05 craig varney can't find a better recent movie 5 stars
2/03/05 Debbi Kalstein interesting interpretation 5 stars
2/02/05 Clifford C Gardner Not great, but worth your time 4 stars
1/31/05 Danita Berg Beautiful....brought tears to my eyes. 4 stars
1/31/05 Gladys Paradowski Didn't achieve its objective, whatever that was. 2 stars
1/31/05 Lynda Eby Love Johnny Depp! 4 stars
1/31/05 Elena this was nice but everything shown was just so obvious and not deep 4 stars
1/31/05 Alison Mosbeck I don't see how anyone could NOT like this...a very imaginative film 4 stars
1/29/05 Charlene Javier Completely magical! 5 stars
1/29/05 malcolm Depp was a little too understated, but the film was great 4 stars
1/29/05 Garnet Leib So-SO 3 stars
1/29/05 Marilyn not to exciting 3 stars
1/29/05 Fred Pellerito Even though I'm a big Johnny Depp fan, this movie was nothing more than average 3 stars
1/29/05 Lisa Clarizio Johnny Depp's an excellent actor but just mediocre in this movie 2 stars
1/27/05 Roz How good is Johnny Depp?!! Charming story, great supporting cast, excellent art direction. 5 stars
1/26/05 Richard R. Lowe Better than awesome. Absolutely brilliant. 5 stars
1/15/05 Jamy I LOVE JOHNNY DEPP! He is a great actor and awsomeinseration to me in alll of his movies. 5 stars
1/14/05 green gremlin a superior "Shadowlands". Johnny Depp was simply awesome 5 stars
1/11/05 Heather Take some Kleenex 5 stars
1/09/05 KCobain A real treasure. Very powerful and emotional. 5 stars
1/05/05 Elizaveta A little too much like "Shadowlands." Still, its good but not great. 3 stars
1/05/05 Helen Bradley Poor editing too slow paced great stars failed by bad script too long 2 stars
12/29/04 The Mockingbird perhaps only too sweet for this cynical world. Wonderful acting all around 4 stars
12/26/04 efrain great movie. one of the best of 2004 5 stars
12/26/04 Suzz very fine acting; interesting storytelling 4 stars
12/13/04 A F Beautiful Film. Almost had some tears. 5 stars
12/08/04 Judy This film thrilled and moved me by its emotional honesty. 5 stars
12/07/04 Titus Nothing earth shattering, but a good (emotional) movie. 4 stars
12/05/04 Ron Cisco Moving, brought me to tears, the actor who plays 5 stars
12/03/04 Denise johnny rules 5 stars
11/26/04 Zohran Mamdani Amzing, brought me to tears! 5 stars
11/26/04 Destiny Pifer Wonderful movie! 5 stars
11/26/04 ajay good movie, but the ending went on about 10 minutes too long. 3 stars
11/26/04 Rudy Depp should have done more drugs in this film. 1 stars
11/24/04 Roger Yes, it's VERY good. 5 stars
11/24/04 T. Maj Conventional movie bio; Johnny Depp always worth watchoingnj 4 stars
11/23/04 Geoff Very good movie. Touching performances all around 4 stars
11/22/04 vagile Wonderful except for heavy handedness in last scene 5 stars
11/20/04 Kristina Williams You gotta love Johnny? 5 stars
11/19/04 kyla robertson Excellent movie. Johnny Depp is Amazing 5 stars
11/19/04 Tanaporn yes,it 's good 3 stars
11/18/04 matt wakeman Beautiful and tender. 4 stars
11/12/04 Paul Gaughan Absolutely fantastic ! I thought Winslett was brilliant as the Widow. Depp as good as ever 5 stars
11/11/04 Janet Wyatt Great drama lifted with flights of fancy. All the actors were superb. 4 stars
11/10/04 alex Disappointingly ordinary - clunky script and generally dull 2 stars
11/08/04 janyne mason i think it has a crap storyline, otherwise ok. 3 stars
11/07/04 Camdyn Nix Breath taking 5 stars
11/07/04 Emilia This film will be hailed alongside other Holiday Classics such as It's a Wonderful Life, et 5 stars
11/07/04 Karen Minton Terrific movie, Johnny Depp great 5 stars
11/07/04 Buffetblvd This film was magnificent - don't miss it!! 5 stars
11/02/04 Bronwen Johnny Depp is amazing. 5 stars
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  12-Nov-2004 (PG)
  DVD: 22-Mar-2005



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