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Hook: A Father Called to Arms

As I watched the movie Hook for about the umpteenth time, I was struck with a surprising revelation: whether intended or not, this film issues a challenge to all fathers to really step up to the plate for their families and be men. In a politically correct culture that attempts (and in many ways succeeds) to emasculate its males at every turn, that is something truly worth cherishing.

Peter Pan (Robin Williams) has done what he vowed never to do – he has grown up. But even with the addition of a wife and two kids in his life, just how grown up is he? Regarding adulthood, our first impressions of Peter are not at all favorable. In fact, it would seem that he is even more childish and selfish as a grown man than he was while just a boy. As a grown-up, Peter pretty much stinks.

Peter has a problem that plagues much of modern society: he’s a workaholic. It comes as no surprise that this significantly impacts his family life, and not in a good way. His job takes precedent over his children, and it seems he’ll only give them the time of day when it’s convenient or when they’re getting on his nerves. He expects his kids to show discipline even while he has very little active presence in their lives, an attitude that his oldest, Jack, very clearly resents. The principle we read in Colossians 3:21 in which fathers are told “do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged” is very much lost on Peter.

The would-be family man obviously has serious priority issues, but he’s about to get the wakeup call of a lifetime. An old forgotten enemy has a score to settle, and Peter finds himself horribly blindsided when his children are kidnapped in the dark of night. Following a bizarre reunion with Tinkerbell (Julia Roberts), before Peter knows it, he’s back in Neverland . . . on Captain Hook’s ship! Peter, not remembering who he is yet, looks like nothing more than a washed up loser in business attire, and even Hook (Dustin Hoffman) doesn’t recognize him. Peter’s physical and psychological conditions bear an apt representation of the terrible state he is in as a parent, and after failing horribly to overcome his fear of heights in a humiliating attempt to reclaim his kids, it looks as though matters are about to go from bad to worse. However, thanks to some haggling between Tinkerbell and Hook, Peter is granted three days in which to whip himself into shape and present himself as a “worthy opponent” to contend for his children.

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Peter struggles to believe that he is the famous Pan, and even the Lost Boys are skeptical at first, especially the big-man-on-campus, Rufio. However, the Boys quickly come around (except Rufio, who wallows in denial for a bit longer), and launch (or should I say slingshot?) Peter into a rigorous work-out program, while at the same time trying to chip away at his wall of doubt and remind him what it is to be a child. In spite of himself, Peter begins to experience an astonishing transformation, and “Pan The Man” starts to re-emerge. But before Peter Pan can truly return, he needs a happy thought to help him take flight again, and he finds it in the memory of his son Jack’s birth. What a touching bit of irony it is that remembering his first moments as a father is what it takes to unlock the fabled youthful hero within him.

Time is up, and Peter is ready, but Hook has not been idle. During their father’s absence, Hook has made every effort to brainwash Peter’s children and poison them against him. Jack’s little sister, Maggie, demonstrates tremendous loyalty for her father, despite his crummy parenting, and is wise enough to see through Hook’s deception. Jack, however, is vulnerable. Hook uses Peter’s weak leadership against him, and soon Jack is eating out of the palm of Hook’s hand, convinced that his dad doesn’t care about him. As a father, Peter has lacked a physical presence and has been emotionally unavailable, failing also to equip his son with the tools he needs to know his friends from his enemies, making Jack susceptible to Hook’s lies and false affection. We get a clear illustration of the consequences that can result when a dad is not . . . well, a dad.

When Peter Pan comes flying to the rescue, Jack is so indoctrinated by Hook that he doesn’t even recognize his own father. But Peter is a changed man, and he’s not leaving Neverland without Jack and Maggie. With inspired swordplay and boundless energy, the newly galvanized Pan leads the Lost Boys in a fight aboard the Jolly Roger to free his children. Peter is finally seen as the leader that Jack has been hungering for, teaching him what true leadership looks like and leads by example as he risks life and limb for his kids. Even Rufio, who for a handful of days had tried to make Peter’s life miserable, can see it. “I wish I’d had a dad like you.”

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Perhaps the moment Hook’s hold over Jack really breaks is when, amidst a flurry of flashing blades, Peter expresses with genuine conviction that his son is his world. “Jack, you won’t believe this, but . . . I found my happy thought! Took me three days to find it, but guess what happened when I did! You know what my happy thought was? It was you!” Fathers, do your children know that the joy they bring to your life is powerful enough to make you soar? Tell them. Show them.

Hook played a devious game, but even his cunning is no match for the fierce love of a father ready to put it all on the line for his family. Jack knows now without a doubt who his dad is, and he is proud to be his son.

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It may seem ironic to think that Peter could become a real man by reconnecting with his inner child, but that is exactly what happens. Seeing reality with youthful eyes reminds Peter just how fragile and important is the connection between adult and child. In a way, the Bible speaks to this.

Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me. Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea.”
~Matthew 18:2-6

Perhaps a bit campy at times, this clever twist on a beloved fairy tale is not only comedic and thrilling, but is also, at its core, heartwarming and surprisingly deep. Hook is a family classic worthy of anyone’s movie library.

Rating: 8.5/10

Andrew Walton

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