Finding Neverland, which has already won The National Board of Review’s “Best Film of 2004” (is the year over?) and is already an Oscar favorite, is worth some attention. Johnny Depp plays his role expertly and with much compassion, as he always seems to, and the supporting characters, especially the children, support him well. The story is touching and engaging, and original enough in it’s own way.

I’m just not sure that it’s the best film of the year. I didn’t think Seabiscuit deserved an Oscar nomination, and I feel the same way about Finding Neverland for pretty much the same reason: they’re both book adaptations, and they both allowed themselves to be shackled to a storyline that didn’t produce a good story arc when shortened to movie length. Not every book adaptation suffers this fate (think the Lord of the Rings trilogy, or The Princess Bride, among many, many others). Nor is a movie that follows a non-standard arc a bad movie – both Finding Neverland and Seabiscuit were good movies; they were also effective (I judge dramas by whether they make Kim cry). But I feel something lacking when there is no build to a climax and a small anteclimax, and that’s enough for some other movie to slip into the top 5 for the year.

But I seem to be in the minority here, and it is only a matter of opinion. Speaking of which, my opinion on the film is that it’s worth seeing, that Johnny Depp will be nominated, and that you’ll enjoy it.