Return to Never Land Blu-ray Review

With all the awful money-grab sequels Disney has released over the past 20 years (look at the ALADDIN follow-ups, ATLANTIS 2, and many others) it’s refreshing to remember there are some times when they actually go full-tilt on a sequel and give it the real Disney treatment. RETURN TO NEVER LAND takes us back to the timeless world of Peter Pan with a premise that’s a little too familiar for comfort (in fact, the parallels to Spielberg’s family-classic HOOK are more than a little off-putting). Still, RETURN TO NEVER LAND is a heck of a lot of fun for kids and has some replay value with decent songs and voice acting that heralds a by-gone era; do you even remember the time when every single character wasn’t voiced by a Hollywood superstar? I found it refreshing, much like RETURN TO NEVER LAND intended, I’m sure… continuing the tradition from the animation style of animated filmmaking (rather than obvious CGI). But nostalgia alone isn’t enough to carry the entire movie, which is sadly lacking in some key areas.

Wendy with her Family

RETURN TO NEVER LAND begins with the now grown-up Wendy, living in England shortly after the beginning of World War II. Wendy lives with her husband and their children, including her daughter Jane (who looks a lot like Wendy). Wendy’s husband is off at war, which has left Jane and her brother to deal with their insecurities. This results in Jane trying to grow up much too quickly… Jane doesn’t believe in make believe and she certainly doesn’t believe in her mother’s stories of Peter Pan and the magical land of Never Land. So imagine her surprise when, hearing the bomb sirens blaring in the background, the Jolly Roger suddenly appears above the house. Thinking that Jane IS Wendy, Hook and company abduct her so they can finally lure Peter into a trap. Pan quickly saves Jane, but immediately realizes that she isn’t whom Hook thinks. Though she still doesn’t believe what is happening around her, she decides the only way she can go home is to strike a deal – so Jane partners with Hook to help him catch Peter if she can just go home… but along the way she realizes what Peter stands for and why letting him get caught is not a good idea.

Pan and the Lost Boys give Jane a hard time.

Along the way we are treated to the usual Disney-faire, including cheesy musical numbers (that actually come off cute more than cheesy) and of course the antics of the lost boys, who immediately take a liking to Jane. Some scenes smack of retooling (HOOK again) but others are blatantly taken from the live action story. Similarly, Wendy has grown up in the real world but this time her daughter, rather than a grown Peter, takes the lead in returning to the magical world where kids never grow up. This doesn’t completely ruin the experience, but I expect more from the house that Mickey built… and it is a disappointment. Still, RETURN TO NEVER LAND captures the imagination of children in that same nostalgic way I fell in love with animated features back in the 1980s.

Pan and Jane

After having watched the Blu-ray releases of ROBIN HOOD and SWORD IN THE STONE, I was greatly surprised at the video quality of RETURN TO NEVER LAND. It’s staggeringly clear, sharp, and beautiful in high definition, as is the animation in general. I know it’s much newer than the others, but the transfer is also so much better it is ludicrous. The colors are beautiful though they aren’t quite vibrant; the songs are presented with clarity but lack the heart of the original Disney flicks, including PETER PAN. In general the movie harkens back to the Disney movies of old without ever actually achieving its aim, instead remaining a bit of a knockoff of Disney’s former glory. Thankfully, I can still recommend watching this………….. with kids. The joy they get from this film, which still has a good message, is well worth the time. Just don’t come expecting to see a classic or you’ll be sorely disappointed.

RETURN TO NEVER LAND BLU-RAY REVIEW

Video: (1080p Widescreen 1.69:1) RETURN TO NEVER LAND is beautiful in digital high definition – much more expense and love was put into this package than in other, more recent, sequels.

Audio: (English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) The audio presentation of RETURN TO NEVER LAND is also beautiful though a bit wasted here. Disney does retain their golden crown for best audio/visual presentation with this blu-ray.

Jane discusses options with Captain Hook.

Deleted Scenes (08:21) Featuring rough animation from various stages of RETURN TO NEVER LAND’s production with some completed elements (probably depending on when the scenes were cut), these are probably the most interesting part of the Blu-ray at least for those obsessed with real behind the scenes stuff. The songs included were cut from RETURN TO NEVER LAND for good reason, though.

Featured Scenes (with my beloved Play All button) include: Where Jane and Hook Meet for the First Time; Gift for Tink; “I’ll Try”; Hook’s Song: “I’ll Give You One Guess”; “Second Star to the Right” Lullaby

“I’ll Try” Music Video Performed by Jonatha Brooke (04:02) Not a true music video, this is kind of a behind the scenes look at the recording of one of major music numbers (cut from the final film) including a quick snippet interview with the artist, interspersed with footage from RETURN TO NEVER LAND.

Pixie Previews (06:25) Previews for Disney Faeries literally lifted from the various TINKERBELL movies, this is kind of a cheap one without any real tie-in to RETURN TO NEVER LAND. Further frustration is induced by the fact that none of these ‘previews’ actually plays well on its own. Includes Just Desserts, Dust Up, Volley Bug, Hide and Tink, and Shooting Stars!.

RETURN TO NEVER LAND is presented on Blu-ray along with a DVD and a Digital Copy of the film. Eschewing iTunes and even UltraViolet, though they are the prominent retailers, Disney has decided to embrace only Amazon or Vudu (the digital side of Wal-Mart’s movie business). I understand siding with these big corporations but the fact that neither are the leading disruptors in the market (both are really playing catch-up) is deeply frustrating.

OVERALL 2.5
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