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Finding Neverland

Genre: Drama
Rated: PG
Directed by
Written by: DAVID MAGEE, based on the play by ALLAN KNEE
Released by: Miramax Pictures

In Short: In “Finding Neverland,” Johnny Depp plays the role he was born for: J.M. Barrie, creator of Peter Pan.

Finding Neverland :
By Andrew Bender

If the idea of a grown man entertaining young boys in a place called Neverland makes you think of today’s tabloids, do yourself a favor and get over it. Make believe you’re in another, more innocent time---London of a century ago---then go see this film.

The king of this Neverland is J.M. Barrie (Johnny Depp), the English dramatist who gave the world “Peter Pan.” After one of his plays bombs, he becomes fast friends with the Llewelyn-Davies family: the lovely widow Sylvia (Kate Winslet) and her four young sons. Barrie becomes a father figure---and distraction---for the sons and their agile imaginations. Together they play pirates, Indians and boys who can fly. Through their relationship, Sylvia finds solace, the boys work through the grief of their father’s death and Barrie gains the inspiration for his most famous work. Not that it’s all sweetness and light; there’s plenty of society drama for which the British set the standard, and if you’ve ever lost someone dear to you, bring a hanky and be prepared to use it.

“Finding Neverland” boasts a terribly talented cast, notably Winslet and the boys (especially young Freddie Highmore as Peter), but the movie really belongs to Depp. Barrie’s character suits him: light, offbeat, tender and magical. In addition, Depp brings the finishing touch to each scene with a masterful Scottish brogue and just the right hint of tragedy---Barrie was a lonely man in a loveless marriage. As for skeptics who might wonder how the fantasy scenes are pulled off, suffice it to say that director Marc Forster (“Monster’s Ball”) skillfully uses period stagecraft rather than special effects, much to the movie’s benefit.

You could walk to the theater to see this movie, but it would be more in the spirit to think you can fly. And who says you can’t? Follow Peter Pan’s directions: “First star to the right and straight on ‘til morning.”

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