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Reese Witherspoon as Tinkerbell: How the 'Peter Pan' character should be updated

The 'Wild' actress is reportedly set to star as Peter Pan's sidekick in an upcoming live-action take on the fairy's story. Why a new spin on the character is welcome, and how the upcoming movie could be a good way to make that happen.

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    Actress Reese Witherspoon (r.) is reportedly set to star as Tinkerbell, the fairy from 'Peter Pan,' in a new movie.
    L: Disney R: Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP
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The “Peter Pan” character Tinkerbell may be getting a new movie of her own.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, “Wild” actress Reese Witherspoon is set to produce and star in a live-action version of the fairy’s story. Writer Borys Kit cites “insiders” as saying “it will play with the idea and the timeline of the well-known Peter Pan narrative” and that the tale is billed as “the story you don’t know” like Disney’s hit film “Maleficent,” which told the story of how the “Sleeping Beauty” villain came to be. 

Disney has also had success with its recent live-action version of “Cinderella” and is currently working on a live-action version of “Beauty and the Beast,” with Dan Stevens of “Downton Abbey,” “Harry Potter” actress Emma Watson, and “The Hobbit” actor Luke Evans set to star. 

If this new version of Tinkerbell’s story gives the character a makeover, it would be a welcome one. In the original Disney animated film, Tinkerbell is – dare we say it? – a bit of a pill, with most of her actions being guided by the fact that she’s jealous over the attention her friend Peter is paying to Wendy Darling. She even, in an extreme move, convinces Peter’s friends the Lost Boys to shoot arrows at Wendy. 

However, Tinkerbell’s affection for Peter does cause her to commit a very selfless act, taking a bomb meant for him that was left by the evil Captain Hook. Tinkerbell snatches it away from him. This echoes the original version of events in J.M. Barrie’s story, where Hook poisons a drink meant for Peter and Tinkerbell drinks it so Peter will not.

If this aspect of Tinkerbell’s character is emphasized and other positive ones are added, Disney can add another worthy female character to its recent roster. 2014’s “Maleficent,” as noted by Monitor film critic Peter Rainer, gave the villain a “sympathetic back story” and told the story with a “quasi-feminist … twist.” (She does still curse Sleeping Beauty, though she tries to take the spell off later and attempts to save her.) “Cinderella” is perhaps the exception in this lineup, because, while actress Lily James’ portrayal of the character did have her extolling the virtues of kindness and making the decision to attend the ball, you still want to tell her to just put down the dishes and get out of there already. But the upcoming adaptation of “Beauty” will showcase one of Disney’s best heroines with Belle, who takes her father’s place as the Beast’s prisoner and learns to love the Beast for who he truly is.

We’ll just have to see if the new version of Tinkerbell presented in the upcoming film will be another positive female character.

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