Spielberg bounced back box office-wise in 1989 with “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” but hit the wall hard later in the year with “Always.” The film was shut out by the Academy, at which point Spielberg seemed creatively adrift. So when he took on “Hook,” a Yuppie-fied riff on J.M. Barrie’s “Peter Pan,” with Robin Wiliams and Dustin Hoffman in the respective roles of Peter and Hook, it felt like the perfect get-right movie. It wound up being the worst film he’d made up to that point in his career. And he laments it to this day.
30 years after its release, Spielberg acknowledged the startling scope of his failure on the Kermode and Mayo Film Review. “I still don’t like that movie,” he said. “I’m hoping someday I’ll see it again and perhaps like some of it.”
Spielberg is too talented a filmmaker to make a front-to-back dud (though he got awfully close with “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”), and I agree with his 2012 assessment of “Hook” in an interview with Empire Magazine. “I didn’t have confidence in the script,” he said. “I had confidence in the first act and I had confidence in the epilogue. I didn’t have confidence in the body of it.”
That’s exactly how I feel about the movie. Once Peter (Robin Williams) arrives in London, his interactions with Wendy (Maggie Smith) are wonderfully melancholic. Spielberg taps into our primal connection with the material, and we yearn to see our hero return to Neverland and rediscover his inner child. The dinner scene honoring Wendy is incredibly moving. This, however, is where the film goes terminally wrong.