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Have you ever read a book, seen a play, or watched a movie and wondered what inspired it? "Finding Neverland" goes deep inside the life of playwright J.M. Barrie, author of "Peter Pan," to answer such a question. The result is a moving and fascinating journey that is even more enjoyable than the story that inspired it. What begins as a simple biopic develops into an emotional and powerful film that could appeal to anyone. With a flawless cast and a distinctive story, this film is destined to become a classic.

"Finding Neverland" begins in 1903 London with the opening of J.M. Barrie's latest play, which turns out to be a big flop. Even worse, his marriage is falling apart as he becomes more distant from his wife. While Barrie is strolling through a park by himself, he stumbles upon Sylvia Davies, a recent widow, and her four playful boys. Thus begins a journey of self-discovery for Barrie as he develops a relationship with the family.

The relationship between the playwright and the Davies family is innocent, playful and imaginative. His interactions with the boys are exactly what the boys need after the recent death of their father, and it is clear that Barrie is in no way trying to replace him. Also, the bond that he develops with Sylvia is certainly not a romantic connection, but still one of genuine caring and love.

Every film must have a villain or a "hook", and "Finding Neverland" is no exception as Sylvia's mother and the boys' overprotective grandmother enters the movie with an extreme dislike for Barrie's influence on the family. All differences are put aside, however, when yet another tragedy strikes.

The motion picture is most believable and enjoyable thanks to its stars. Johnny Depp portrays Barrie in almost the exact opposite of his portrayal of Capt. Jack Sparrow in "Pirates of the Caribbean": calm, reserved, subdued, and yet strikingly powerful. He does not set out to make Barrie a mega-hero but still succeeds in making him extremely likable. Kate Winslet also delivers a powerfully moving performance as Sylvia, who is at the emotional core of the story.

The picture's true stars, however, are the Davies boys, especially Peter. The boys are incredibly appealing to watch as they play and interact with Barrie. Peter's final scene with Barrie at the end of the film is very real and very moving -- it left everyone in my theater audience in tears! The chemistry between all these characters is remarkable; it's astonishing they have not all worked together before.

The film connects J.M. Barrie's life with the story of Peter Pan in a fun and enjoyable way, though a bit ridiculous. For example, when Barrie and the boys are playing make-believe pirates at a cottage, the scene transforms itself into a scene from the real "Peter Pan." However, the film is certainly not limited to fans of "Peter Pan." The fact that it was inspired by "Peter Pan" is almost irrelevant to the distinct emotional story the film produces.

What makes "Finding Neverland" such a great movie is that it will appeal to everyone. The story involves deep themes such as loss of innocence and the power of imagination, yet still allows the film to be simple and pleasant. The biggest plus of this movie, though, is its terrific cast that make you believe in a place known as Neverland.

Connor Dearing is a junior at Canisius High School.

* * * 1/2 (Out of four)

An action-packed 'Treasure' hunt

Benjamin Franklin Gates (Nicolas Cage), third-generation treasure-seeker and great-great great-grandson of the man entrusted with a national secret dating back to the 1700s, has spent his entire life following clues first set down by the country's Founding Fathers.

That secret concerns a conspiracy theory in which Gates and his family have invested decades. It involves the whereabouts of an enormous treasure accumulated by the legendary Knights Templar, which was then hidden by the secret society known as the Free Masons during the Revolutionary War.

Gates discovers a clue in the cargohold of a ship which leads him to an invisible map on the back of the Declaration of Independence. Once word gets out that the key to the location of a priceless treasure is on the back of what may be our country's most important document, Gates finds himself doing the unthinkable: stealing the Declaration of Independence in order to protect it.

The movie takes off in a race against time to beat Gates' ex-partner and the movie's villain, Ian Howe, played by Sean Bean, to the location of the next clue and ultimately to the treasure.

"National Treasure," directed by John Turtletaub, is an action-packed and exciting film that will have you checking the back of a dollar bill as you leave the theatre, to see if there really is an unfinished pyramid with the all-seeing eye engraved on it.

The mystery that surrounds the legend of the Templar Knights and that links them with America's Founding Fathers in themovie is enticing, and the fact that the clues are all hidden in historical monuments and on every-day American staples like the $100 bill gives the movie an interesting angle that makes the audience want to know more.

With the help of his computer-savvy sidekick Riley Pool (Justin Bartha) and the skeptical butgorgeous Dr. Abigail Chase (Dian Kruger), Gates must uncover the clues hidden in history to find the treasure that is hidden in America's backyard, and prevent it from falling into the hands of those who only want the money and power it generates.

For the audience learns by the end of the movie's 130 minutes that it is not the treasure itself that is so important to those who are worthy of such a prize, but the pursuit and excitement of reaching their goal that are so valuable to true treasure-hunters.

Cage's characteristic quirkiness and the comic relief supplied most of the time by Riley combine to make this movie not only a fun action flick, but a quasi-comedy and an all-around enjoyable film as well.

Claire Franczyk is a junior at Nichols.

National Treasure
* * * 1/2 (Out of four)