I am, occasionally…. well, wrong—particularly when it comes to movies. For certain, I love the art form, immerse myself into a film’s backstory and, honest and truly, I try my best to present a cogent critique. But on more occasions than I care to count, I have been at odds with other critics or the moviegoing public. Most recently, I loathed JoJo Rabbit and Joker, both Best Picture Oscar nominees. And when The Avengers franchise launched in 2012 (it seems so much longer ago), I wrote in the pages of BW that The Avengers (which would ultimately become one of the greatest box office champs of all time) was “dysfunctional” and was “to superhero films what Home Depot is to a house—some neat stuff inside but assembly is required.”
At least that’s what the son of a rather well-known public figure thought of my review. In fact, that public figure posted on social media that her son thought that I was… well, let’s just say “full of beans.”
Which brings me to Wendy, a film to which (to whom?) I surrender; I found this 21st-century reimagining of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan heart-pounding and soul-filling all at once. So, let’s get this out of the way right now: Wendy is SOOOOOOOO much better than nearly every other film currently in the cinema (with the possible exception of Emma). It’s the work of filmmaker Benh Zeitlin, who burst upon the scene with 2012’s Beasts of the Southern Wild. I think it’s a fair bet that if you loved Beasts, odds are that you’ll have a grand time with Wendy. Zeitlin has, once again, wrangled a superb cast of young actors and coaxed an Oscar-caliber performance from 12-year-old Devin France, who portrays one of literature’s most daring dreamers.
But wait. Some of the nation’s top critics are dismissing Wendy as below-average fare. The so-called “Tomatometer” critics’ score of Wendy at RottenTomatoes.com is an embarrassing 42%.
The Atlantic’s David Sims called the film “exhausting.” The New York Times’ Manohla Dargis wrote that Wendy “casts about for meaning that never comes.” And the Los Angeles Times’ Justin Chang wrote Zeitlin’s first film since the Oscar-nominated Beasts “feels less like a bold step forward than a stubborn reassertion of identity.”
I couldn’t disagree more. Was it possible that I screened an entirely different film? For me, Wendy was a remarkable outing—a profound and dreamy portal where fantasy dovetails into reality.
Is Wendy a perfect film? Nope, but that is, in large part, due to the third act descent in the original tale, which confronted a boy who never grew up with the harshness of adulthood. To his credit, Zeitlin’s Wendy abandons the conceit of J.M. Barrie’s original 1904 play and the fairy dust of the Disney-fied 1954 cartoon, and instead has crafted an august yet earthier fable.
I adored it (and hope you do too).
And for the record, that young man who thought I was full of beans back in 2012 for my Avengers review? He was undoubtedly correct and has most certainly grown up to be a fine, serious young man. Meanwhile, I’m still waiting to grow up.