THE STORY Eccentric Scottish playwright J.M. Barrie (Johnny Depp) is stuck in a loveless marriage and equally stuck for inspiration until one afternoon when he meets a widow (Kate Winslet) and her four young sons playing in the park. Barrie steps in as a father figure to the boys, who in turn become the inspiration for his next play...Peter Pan.
WHY WE LOVE IT We thought we'd seen Depp do just about everything. Cross-dressing hack director? Check. Ether-sniffing gonzo journalist? Yep. Woozy-boozy swashbuckling pirate? Roger that. But here he does something totally new: He plays a wounded character who finds humanity, grace, and redemption in the faces of four fatherless boys.
YOU MIGHT LIKE IT IF YOU LIKED... Shakespeare in Love and Hook... then again, if you liked Hook, you'll pretty much like anything.
THE PEDIGREE Director Marc Forster steered Halle Berry to an Oscar in Monster's Ball. This time he's got a cast (Depp, Winslet, Dustin Hoffman, Julie Christie) with 14 Oscar nods among them.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR Aside from Depp and Winslet's compassionate, three-hankie chemistry (Is it really possible they've never worked together before?!), you won't be able to miss the doe eyes of 12-year-old Freddie Highmore as Peter. In fact, Depp and Winslet were so impressed by the moppet that they both recommended him separately to Tim Burton for the lead in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Says Winslet, still gushing like a proud mother: ''He has a scary gift, that kid. Take after take he would get better and better. It literally gave Johnny and me chills.'' (Nov. 24, PG)