Titular character Wendy (Devin France) and Peter Pan (Yashua Mack) prepare to fly in a scene from director Behn Zeitlin's imaginative re-envisioning of J.M. Barrie's story about children who never grow up in WENDY. Credit: Photo courtesy of Searchlight Pictures © 2020 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All rights reserved.


KEY CAST MEMBERS: Devin France, Yashua Mack, Gage Naquin, Gavin Naquin, Ahmad Cage, Krzysztof Meyn, Romryi Ross and Shay Walker

DIRECTOR(S): Behn Zeitlin

THE BACK STORY: A wildly different take on previous Peter Pan productions, Wendy stars Devin France as the titular character. Wendy, along with her two brothers Douglas and James (played by real life brothers Gage and Gavin Naquin), is a young child who we are first introduced to inside of the greasy spoon where their mother (Shay Walker) works. When the trio of siblings were younger, their friend Thomas (Krzysztof Meyn) went off on a train and was never seen again. 

Curious as to what happened, Wendy and her brothers one night sneak off when the train reappears. That is how they meet a young boy named Peter (Yashua Mack) who leads them on a journey to a mysterious island where children never age – as long as they believe in the island and "Mother," a glowing whale-like sea creature that serves as the heart and soul of the island. The children enjoy their stay at the beginning, playing from sunrise to sunset ... But they have no idea what awaits them as their extended stay turns into a life-changing experience, provided Wendy can get her family home once again.

THE REVIEW: In contention for both the most imaginative and worst movie of 2020 thus far, Wendy is at best wild and weird and at worst boring and grandiose.

How can you take a classic for most and, at the very least, extremely familiar, story and turn it into a nearly 2 hour epic with no audience? Well, if you're co-writer and director Behn Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild), you (1) take a children's tale and make it geared towards an adult audience as you (2) have underperforming young actors recite (3) inane dialogue whilst (4) telling your story at an extremely methodical pace (5) too slow for children and too (6) plodding for adults. The movie is an art house take on a classic children's story that is too artistic for anyone to be as entertained as the is it by itself.

While some will praise (or at the very least, commend) Zeitlin for his progressive thinking in his casting, a Caribbean Peter Pan with a distinct patois is something you'll either be on board with or not. Likewise, the Pan character as portrayed in Wendy is both aloof and self-absorbed and less a compelling figure as much as he is a necessary conduit to arrive at various story points. (And not to criticize a child's acting, but given that this is a critique, there are times Mack does not seem like the best choice for Zeitlin's vision.)

Likewise, the older actors feel like last-minute replacements in their limited roles that match their limited acting skills. In addition, the new "mother" figure in the film – a deep sea creature that serves as the heart of the mythical island that Peter literally calls Mother – is a terrible metaphor for childhood/innocence and a lousy replacement for the role Wendy has in Barrie's work. There are several plot discrepancies tied to the creature, which is a lot like the movie itself: An interesting but hodgepodge albatross that underdeveloped and misrepresentative of whatever it is supposed to represent.

Given the nearly decrepit pace the story moves at – coupled with the odd camera choices – Mack is the least of the film's problems. Whereas Wendy aims to be ambitious, it often comes off as forced, odd for the sake of odd and at worst, completely non-compelling. It simply exists for its own sake with payoffs coming off so heavy-handed there is no inherent intrigue other than seeing how it ends.

These are all the reasons that Wendy is better off, like the Lost Boys themselves, staying missing from your movie viewing queue.



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