Finding Neverland DVD Review
PictureConsidering the beautiful theme of the film - the un-tethering of the imagination - you would expect something delicious in the visual stakes. And Finding Neverland certainly supplies much to savour, however, Miramax's disc then appears to go out of its way to destroy such good work with a very poor quality transfer. All the more upsetting when you consider how recent this movie is. Although presented in a nicely framed 2.35:1 anamorphic image, the picture is subject to a terrible amount of grain that lessens the already soft visual look of the film still further. There is edge-enhancement galore and a terrible mushy aspect to any distance shots with the fantastical gardens suffering most. This also leads to a woeful lack of depth in any exterior scenes such as the country house segment, or the park near the start. Blacks, however, are actually quite good and provide a decent sense of shadow depth and contrast to the interior scenes, in the theatre, for example. Yet skin tones do not appear realistic and in close-ups, on larger screens especially, there is evidence of dot crawl.
Colours, for the most part, are subdued and reined-in for an autumnal feel but still feel mistreated by this transfer. Detail is often blurred and even finer elements, such as peoples' feet as they stand around the grave, are muddied-up considerably - and not intentionally, I might add. This is nowhere near as good a transfer as should be expected and certainly far less than this movie deserves.
SoundAlthough supplied with a Dolby Digital 5.1 track in English, Spanish and French, Finding Neverland clearly never intended to use it to its full capacity. And, as such, we are treated to a primarily front and centre approach that does an admittedly good job of delivering the dialogue and music without any pomp or grandeur. The rears do little other than add a little bird chirping or some amiable chatter to add to the ambience. The sub will be left snoring but the front speakers will swell with the score and dole out some directional voices and effects once in a while. I feel a bit cruel when marking some films down on their audio when, in honesty, they actually sound pretty good - but when compared to the use some other releases put their soundmixes to, a 5.1 track minus any effective surround just seems like a waste of effort. So, all in all, it does the job, albeit in an unspectacular and limited manner.
ExtrasThis is where it really hurts. A fine film such as Finding Neverland really should be treated with a bit more respect. At first glance there might appear to be a few interesting goodies here but basically all we get of any value is the sporadically entertaining Commentary Track from director Marc Forster, writer David Magee and producer Richard N. Gladstein and the selection of Outtakes. The chat-track contains a few gems - like the fact that Barrie really did dress up in his dead brother's clothes to try and elicit some attention from his traumatised mother, Dustin Hoffman lost the top of a finger in a folding chair whilst filming and, perfect of all, the beautiful fairytale performance of Peter Pan in Sylvia's house actually happened. The Outtakes are a fine bunch of gaffs and pranks and Depp's innate sense of playfulness comes to the fore when he brings a fart machine to the dinner party sequence. Some good stuff in here.
But the rot sets in with one of those powder-puff, glossy mini making ofs that we all detest. Called The Magic Of Finding Neverland, this is just a complete cast and crew love-fest, fawning-over-each-other super session that is sickly sweet and utterly nauseating to watch. Running for 16mins of backslapping and puke-inducing praise this only attains near-redemption for the brief snippets of info about J.M. Barrie and the genesis and heritage of Peter Pan. That the Great Ormond Street Hospital For Children receives donations from the royalties of every production of Pan - set in stone by Barrie himself - is a terrific footnote.
Next up is Creating Neverland which is just a 3 min loose talk about the fx on show. And On The Red Carpet is 2.20mins of appalling premier promo stuff. How much praise can these people heap on one another? Sadly the three Deleted Scenes that come with optional commentary from the same trio of writer/director/producer are basically minute scene extensions that add nothing and were justly removed.
And we get the trailers for National Treasure and Dear Frankie. All in all, a wasted opportunity to expand on a great movie.
VerdictOverall, I loved Finding Neverland and recommend it wholeheartedly. The movie, not the disc. Boasting terrific performances and a wonderful, yearning sense of letting the fantastic into your life, it manages to stay just the right side of saccharine. It contains lovely old fashioned photography and, largely, gimmick-free direction from Forster. But it is the message of clinging onto our innocence that we all need to take to heart. We could all do with a little more wonder in our lives, couldn't we? Although not a direct telling of Peter Pan, it is still quite clear just who the real Pan was and, as such, this is a great and touching epitaph for a man who simply refused to grow up. So, a tremendous film let down with lacklustre AV quality and a poor attempt at special features. Mind you, the commentary isn't bad and the outtakes will make you giggle. Which you'll need to after blubbering your way through the latter stages of the film. So, it is worth getting just for the movie alone.
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