It is truly a tragic day in Hollywood. One of the most beloved comedians in the history of cinema has passed away. Robin Williams was 63 when he died, an absolute infant in the minds of many who wanted to see his talents and huge heart explored for the rest of eternity. While he was beloved in all of his roles, from the hilarious mad scientist in Flubber to the inquisitive professor in Dead Poets Society, the actor was an unmatchable soul. He held with him the kind of glee and gumption that is a rarity in today's industry. He leaves behind a wife and three children, and also a body of unfinished work, including a Mrs. Doubtfire sequel, which we may never see come to the big screen.
It is hard to look at his vast collection of iconic films and pinpoint a favorite, however, for me, the film that sticks out immediately is the 1991 Steven Spielberg-directed flick, Hook. For the uninitiated (which I hope, is no one), the film follows grown-up Peter Pan (somehow not a oxymoron) as he travels back to Neverland to save his children from Captain Hook. But first, he must learn to become Peter Pan for a final time, remember how to fly, how to crow, remember his fabled past, and harken back to a childlike state of imagination.
It is the quirkiest of plots, but somehow it is executed in flawless precision. (Well, I'm still struggling with Julia Roberts as TinkerBell, but for all intents and purposes, I'll let it slide). And for those of you who have seen the film, you know that Williams was the true reason Hook was such a delicious adventure. The duality of Williams as Peter Pan, the boy he once was, and Peter Banning, the business man he had become, allowed each and every one of us to become Peter Pan alongside a man who had no other choice than to believe.
And isn't that what childhood is really about? Hook was one of the first films I ever saw as a child, and while the movie came out when I was one year old, I saw it just a few years later, then several times a year after that for as long as I can remember. Even as an adult, it thrills me. I don't know if it's possible to watch the food fight scene without wishing you were sandwiched between Thud Butt, Tootles, and Ace, scooping up a creamy concoction of neon-colored goo and flinging it at the face of your campmate.
Once, in high school, a friend and I brought Hook (on VHS no less) to our mutual friend's house who had never seen it. We were so in awe that he hadn't witnessed the brilliance that was Rufio's "bangarang" cry that we made an event of it: We built a cozy fort of blankets and pillows, erected a seat for our friend in the middle (mostly so we could keep a close eye on him make sure he laughed at all the right jokes and didn't check his Razr cellphone for text messages). But what he didn't know is that we had a special surprise in store. Earlier in the day we had baked a cake, presumably to eat while watching the film, a delightful treat to enjoy to make the viewing party that much more enjoyable. WRONG. What we actually did was far more extreme.
We did not bake the cake so we could eat it, we baked the cake so that when that pivotal scene came around, when Williams would face his ultimate demons in the form of a bevy of 10-year-olds slinging creampies, we would be ready. Right before the scene, we ran to the kitchen, "Be right back!" we snickered, giggling like school girls (... like the school girls we were) to take handfuls of cake and shove them in our pockets, returning without a cracked smile to give us away. So when Williams was self-actualizing through the means of sugary treats to the face, we too were armed with edible delights. We took our handfuls of cake and smashed them onto our friends cheeks, his head, his arms. We smeared the chocolate gooeyness all over his clean t-shirt and his mother's white couch, all the while screaming, "BANGARANG!"
I'm sure the entire incident served our interest more than his, and looking back on it now, it truly was a waste of a perfectly moist cake. But this, you see, is the power of Hook. Williams' hilarious and adventurous prowess led me to dream of food fights in real life. Our execution was flawed, but our intentions were flawless.
And so today, I must say: Robin Williams, you will always be remembered with great admiration. We are so lucky to have had you in our lives, and have your tremendous body of work immortalized on film. You taught me how to keep a childlike sense of wonder in a world full of dull situations (and how to stain other people's furniture with baked goods), but most of all, you taught me how to crow.
Crow. Fight. Fly. R.I.P., Robin Williams.