|3.||Learning To Fly||3:10|
|5.||Is That A Kiss?||1:41|
|7.||A Note From The Teacher||2:49|
|8.||Build A House Around Her||1:23|
|9.||Come Meet Father||2:33|
|10.||Fetch Long Tom||1:31|
|13.||Set Them Free||3:05|
|14.||I Do Believe In Fairies||2:44|
|16.||Please Don't Die||1:52|
|17.||lying Jolly Roger||1:15|
| ||44:22| Submit your review
Aside from Disney's animated version, Peter Pan has fared surprisingly badly onscreen (although Disney's film is hardly a classic) and I suspect that Steven Spielberg's ill fated Hook put most people off. However, this new adaptation from the director of My Best Friend's Wedding turned out to be excellent and turns the original play into a film - indeed, it has the feel of the play bursting off the stage and onto the screen. It's a charming achievement and aided by some splendid acting from the two young stars playing Peter and Wendy, plus Jason Isaacs as Captain Hook. They are certainly a more inspiring screen presence than the kids in Spielberg's film and having less well known actors, instead of Dustin Hoffman and Robin Williams, also helps Hogan's film.
It is, of course, natural to compare James Newton Howard's score with John Williams' Hook and the Williams certainly comes out as the stronger score, but in fairness to Howard, many of the themes for Hook were written for a musical version of Peter Pan that ultimately never happened, but were rescued and used in Hook. Howard's themes aren't quite as memorable, although the main theme encapsulates the magic of the story and when it first appears towards the end of Flying, the results are terrific. I must admit that the approach to the flying sequences wasn't initially to my taste; Howard employs are slightly dated synth ostinato and builds the orchestral part on top. It's nicely twinkling in an 80's kind of way and I suppose is meant to sound magical, but I rather feel many listeners will be disappointed that it's not entirely acoustic, but I must admit that ultimately it did grow on me.
There are quite a few moments that recall Williams (or more specifically, the bits of Stravinsky's ballet The Firebird that Williams score leans on from time to time), with the orchestra bouncing around playfully with frenetic string and woodwind runs. Tracks such as Peter's Shadow and Learning to Fly, with some energetic indoor flying sequences, feature this style most prominently, but it becomes a little tiring after a while, especially since Howard doesn't give it the focus or direction that Williams (or Stravinsky) achieved. Aside from the flying music, there are some other unexpected interludes, notably the unusual guitar passages of Come Meet Father, but also the slightly creepy, choral based Mermaids. Fairy Dance is a highlight cue, with a music box melody backed by a children's chorus, which sounds like it ought to be horrible, but its melancholy lilt is enthralling.
Perhaps the score's biggest disappointment is that it's not more than the sum of its parts. There are some terrific moments, but - to coin a phrase - it needs that little extra sprinkling of fairy dust to really make it fly. Williams managed to juggle a dozen themes in Hook and have them all work together to tell the story, but Howard's main theme doesn't appear nearly often enough (it seems very adaptable) and many of the secondary melodies need a stronger identity to work on their own. Some do - Fairy Dance and the Flying motif, for example - but just a couple too many tracks seem a little aimless and there is much in the way of swashbuckling energy for the well staged sword fights. Even if it falls just short of naturally high expectations, there are enough highlights to make it worth recommending.
James Newton Howard's music for Peter Pan was probably one of the most anticipated score of 2003. Not that strange, considering that a) James Newton Howard is a great composer, b) a film about Peter Pan should have at least some room for some large scale adventure music and c) well... did I mention that Howard is a great composer?
It's of course hard not to compare Howard's score to John Williams's wonderful score for Spielberg's incredibly embarassing Hook from 1991. It's especially hard when listening to Howard's "Main Title" cue, which opens with a celesta, soft choir and brass, because it's sounds rather Hook-ish. It doesn't last, though. At least not when it comes to the flying music, which in Howard's score has a very peculiar 80's sound to it - synth percussion with tons of reverb, for example. But it's actually kind of cute and catchy. It's hard not to like it.
The rest of the score isn't as bold and adventurous as one might expect, even if it has it's fair share of brass fanfares. There's a lot of Mickey Mousing however and often the direction and tone of the music changes a lot. There's also a lot of gentle material in the score. "Is that a Kiss?", for example includes some lovely celesta, woodwinds, choir and strings. The absolute highlight is the five minutes long "Fairy Dance", with its soft synths, harp and woodwinds. And a very beautiful choir. And the way it just soars when the strings kick in is just amazing. "Please Don't Die" is the big mushy part of the score, with a grand statement of one of the score's themes. Pretty.
All in all, Peter Pan is perhaps not the kind of swashbuckling score many expected it to be, but it is very good none the less. And even if the themes won't knock you over, they do what they are supposed to do and are what they are supposed to be. Peter Pan is the kind of score that grows on the listener and gets better and better over time. It's a solid James Newton Howard score. The composer is truly one of the most gifted composers working in Hollywood today.
Other releases of Peter Pan (2003):