The newest addition to the Direct-To-Video Tinkerbell saga, Pirate Fairy is by far the most ambitious of the series to date. That isn’t to say it’s entirely successful in it’s attempts, but at least they’re finally branching the story out of Pixie Hollow and into the world of Neverland as a whole. As the title implies, this is a film about pirates. And what would a pirate story set in Neverland be without the infamous Captain Hook?
Yes, we are finally bringing Tinkerbell’s adventures in line with the Peter Pan narrative we all know and love. Right off the bat, I was impressed with the musical cues, introducing the film with the themes of the original Peter Pan film. Segueing from this fantastic opening, we are transplanted into a standard Tinkerbell narrative, dealing with an inquisitive fairy named Zarina who is determined to unlock the mysteries of pixiedust. She’s instructed not to mess with the blue dust which serves as a multiplier of the standard dust. Of course, she rebels and begins experimenting with the different dusts in an attempt to create various colors to explore their properties. Disaster ensues, and she is fired from her job as dust keeper.
So far, this is a pretty typical narrative for this series. However, things take a different direction when a title card pops up reading “one year later.” During that time, Zarina has become the captain of a pirate ship containing a young man who will grow up to become Captain Hook. This isn’t exactly Hook’s prequel story, as Zarina is the focus, but there is a lot of groundwork laid for the future adventures we have come to know.
Throughout the film, we take to the skies of Neverland, spend a great amount of time in Skull Rock, and get a chance to experience the world away from Pixie Hollow. Unfortunately, the setup is more impressive than the execution. Zarina utilizes her understanding of multi-colored dust to cast a spell on all of the fairies, causing their respective powers to shift amongst themselves. It’s a silly gimmick that doesn’t really add much to the story. On top of that, nothing much really “happens” during the movie. This is a film with a setup in search of a narrative.
Despite my misgivings with the film, the casting was incredibly impressive, adding Christina Hendricks (Joan from Mad Men) as Zarina, and Tom Hiddleston (Loki from Thor) as young Hook. They both give inspired performances, never once performing as if simply for a paycheck. They sound as if they are having a blast, with vocal performances full of energy and excitement. There is only one musical number in the entire film, and while it’s very out of place, Hiddleston performs it beautifully. An ode to piracy and their new ability to fly their ship, this song burrowed it’s way into my head over a week ago and I still can’t get it out. It’s infectiously catchy, and a terrific moment despite coming out of nowhere.
As for the animation, it looks far better than a direct-to-video film should look. There are some beautiful shots involving the pirate ship, both on the seas and in flight. Skull Rock is appropriately intimidating, and I was consistently impressed with the significant amount of water animation. This is obviously a film that the filmmakers took great pride in getting right, probably knowing they would receive an increased audience from the voice casting. Their efforts paid off on a technical level, but I can’t help but wish that more effort was put into the story itself.
As this is a Direct-to-Video effort, one would expect that there would be a significant amount of extras. Unfortunately, there really isn’t that much of note. I suppose that makes sense as this is a kid’s film, and kids won’t really be seeking out bonus features anyway. However, if they do, they could choose from deleted scenes, a sing-along feature, a “funny documentary” about the crocodile of the film and the crocodile’s real-world counterparts, a short feature on Neverland and the filmmakers attempt to broaden the scope of the franchise, and the making of the musical number mentioned above, “The Frigate that Flies.” The two most interesting to me were the features on Neverland and the making of the musical number. Neither one was particularly insightful, but at least it gave some insight into the process behind the film, including live video of Hiddleston singing “The Frigate that Flies.”
Overall, this is my favorite of the Tinkerbell films to date just for it’s attempts to be something different. This still feels like a Tinkerbell movie in terms of tone, but they’re starting to break out of their box in what can only be a good way for the future of the franchise. I’m not going to say that I’m excited for the next film, but I’m definitely curious about the long-term plans for the series, and I am looking forward to seeing just how long it takes to bring Pan himself into the mix. This is definitely a step in the right direction for the franchise, and anything that pushes the series forward can only be a good thing.