The Boy Who Could Fly

Nick Castle's Peter Pan fantasy about two teens from fractured families, a girl who's lost her father and an orphaned autistic boy living with an uncle, who “dare to dream the impossible” and learn to fly. It's easy to pick this emotional bunny rabbit apart—for the sentimental bathos, the literalism, the radiating wholesomeness (everything David Lynch parodied in Blue Velvet, down to the impeccable small-town streets and flowers framed against a screaming blue sky . . . only Castle gives it to you straight, without irony)—though what's remarkable here, and altogether rare, is the artifice and polish of Castle's studio-rooted style. It's a 40s hallucination, a studio manner without studio underpinnings, and Castle's elegant visual line, his sense of composition, color, and pacing, suggests a formal temperament weaned on Hitchcock and Minnelli (the night flying scenes have the graceful calculation of an MGM musical epiphany). It's a film to please the formalists, though I'm not sure about anyone else: Castle's attraction to prepube emotionality (here and in his otherwise appealing Last Starfighter debut) is starting to look like a permanent affliction. With Lucy Deakins, Jay Underwood, Bonnie Bedelia, Fred Savage, Colleen Dewhurst, Fred Gwynne, and Mindy Cohn.

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