Director Marc Forster
Starring Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet, Julie Christie, Radha Mitchell
Seven Oscar noms this year put Finding Neverland second only to The Aviator. But whenever the Academy dishes out a Best Picture nomination without an accompanying Director nod, you can't help feeling a mite suspicious (see Driving Miss Daisy... Or, rather, don't). Sure enough, Marc Forster's movie is a smart, engaging biopic with some dazzling flashes of imagination - but it rarely achieves out-of-this-world heights.
The choicest elements are Johnny Depp as man-child playwright JM Barrie and his tender, lark-about friendship with a widow's (Kate Winslet) four young sons - - a friendship which inspires him to pen his greatest success, Peter Pan. Depp delivers a performance of restrained compassion and his Scottish accent doesn't let the side down, either.
What does, however, are the occasional whimsical misfires and Winslet's Sylvia, a role too entrenched in the Sick-But-Saintly School for the film's good. Still, if the final scene between Depp and 10-year-old Freddie Highmore doesn't cause a chin wobble, then you're probably not looking forward to Charlie And The Chocolate Factory.
Forster, screenwriter David Magee and producer Richard Gladstein reveal in a genial commentary why Neverland sat on the shelf for so long (they had to wait until the PJ Hogan version came out to get the Peter Pan rights they wanted). The Making Of doc does a succinct job of summing up the play's history on stage and screen, though it could have shed more light on Barrie's life. There are a few amusing outtakes (Depp gets his fart machine out), but the deleted scenes and two minor featurettes aren't really worth pressing Play for.