Disney’s new live-action Peter Pan remake, titled Peter Pan & Wendy, has been the focus of pretty relentless review-bombing on Rotten Tomatoes following the movie’s decision to change the race of some characters and to introduce girls into the gang of “Lost Boys.” So many viewers are slamming the movie, in fact, that the flood of negative reviews not only sent the movie’s Rotten Tomatoes audience score plummeting to 13% (which may be the worst ever for a Disney live-action remake).
On Friday afternoon, the review aggregation site also took the unusual step of just removing the low audience score altogether, as you can see below. Again, it had previously stood at 13% when I last checked. [Update: Shortly after this piece was published, the 13% Rotten Tomatoes audience score was restored.]
Rotten Tomatoes owner Fandango has not yet responded to a request I sent seeking comment on this move, which also comes ahead of the release later this month of Disney’s live-action remake of The Little Mermaid — another Disney remake that is contending with similar criticism already, ahead of its own release.
Let me make a brief prediction, by the way, about the latter before continuing about the Peter Pan remake. I’m definitely not in the core demographic or who the upcoming remake of The Little Mermaid is aimed at, but I just want to say that Halle Bailey seems like a great choice to play the iconic role of Ariel. As far as I can tell, she brings the same amount of beauty, sweetness, and charm to the character that was present in the animated classic, and she also certainly has a great singing voice.
What I unfortunately suspect is going to happen with that movie, which is set for a May 26 release, is that critics will knock it for other technical reasons — or, maybe even decide that it’s good but not good enough to justify supplanting the animated classic. To this viewer, for example, the live-action version of Little Mermaid characters like Flounder and Sebastian have absolutely none of the same charm or whimsy that we saw in the original. They actually look a little unsettling in the remake. Having said that, such criticisms will no doubt set off a cavalcade of “Is it racist to criticize the new Little Mermaid?” think pieces and punditry.
Which, come to think of it, is sort of what’s happening with the Peter Pan remake (currently also streaming on Disney+).
From Disney’s official description of the remake:
“Wendy Darling, a young girl afraid to leave her childhood home behind, meets Peter Pan, a boy who refuses to grow up. Alongside her brothers and a tiny fairy, Tinker Bell, she travels with Peter to the magical world of Never Land. There, she encounters an evil pirate captain, Captain Hook, and embarks on a thrilling adventure that will change her life forever.”
Yara Shahidi, one of the stars of Black-ish, plays Tinker Bell here, while Jude Law plays Captain Hook. The original 1953 version of Peter Pan, by the way, is also available to stream right now on Disney+, though it includes a content advisory that warns the movie “includes negative depictions and/or mistreatment of people and cultures.”
Below, a sampling of some Rotten Tomatoes reviews from critics as well as viewers of the Peter Pan remake:
- New York Magazine/Vulture: “It’s a familiar story, but in its details, the film suffers from an odd mix of overcorrection and halfheartedness.”
- Mashable: “When detractors decry Disney for cannibalizing IP for profit, they could point to Peter Pan & Wendy, a live-action recreation of a classic movie that mercilessly bleeds life out of its iconic characters and passion out of its heralded helmer.”
- 1-star review: “Yes it’s that bad. Disney really enjoys shooting itself in the foot it would seem.”
- 5-star review: “I loved it. I think that some people writing reviews here seem to have forgotten that the “source material” for this movie (and animated movie too) started with a *book*. Not Disney. I love how there were more things incorporated in this movie that weren’t part of the animated one… they were from the book. Of course the backstory with Hook changed, but okay. I’m really pleased with the actors and how everything wasn’t overly Disney-ized. Thank you!!!”
- 1-star review: “Did someone in Hollywood set out to absolutely ruin everything worthwhile? Every other live action remake is worse than the last. The old fairy tales carried the charm of childishness, innocence, while remaining open and accessible to all ages. I couldn’t say more nice things about this monstrosity masquerading as a work of art than about the stinking remains of a cat’s nocturnal visit to our backyard.”
To my point above, about it being an unusual move for Rotten Tomatoes to just pull a score down from its site, consider:
Dr. Anthony Fauci remains an intensely polarizing figure among the general public, for reasons that I don’t need to get into all over again here. There’s a 2021 National Geographic documentary about him (available to stream, like the new Peter Pan movie, on Disney+), and its Rotten Tomatoes audience score is so much worse — currently standing at 2%. The review site, however, has let that one stand.