Peter Rabbit Review
A turf war over the vegetable patch sees Peter Rabbit face off to against a new McGregor
Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit takes to the big screen in a story that is a far cry from his humble, if not a bit cheeky, beginnings.I can’t remember the exact tale of Peter Rabbit but I do remember the delightful pictures and the memory of reading the enchanting tale by Beatrix Potter. First published in 1902 the story of Peter Rabbit told of his naughty escapades into the vegetable garden of the mean old Mr McGregor who had previously caught his father and baked him in a pie. For me it’s the lasting memory of being read those short stories of those cute little animals and so I have to say I entered the cinema to see Peter Rabbit with some trepidation. The film begins much as you would expect with Peter Rabbit, voiced by James Corden, hatching a plan with his triplet sisters Flopsy, Mopsy and Cotton Tail (Margot Robbie, Elizabeth Debicki and Daisy Ridley respectively) and his cousin Benjamin (Colin Moody) to pilfer from Mr McGregor’s vegetable garden.
But, unlike the book, this heist ends with Mr McGregor (Sam Neill) collapsing from a fatal heart attack. Rejoicing at having the all the fruits and vegetables now at their disposal, without the risk of being made into rabbit pie, Peter and his fellow fluffy pals let loose an all you can eat buffet - albeit a rather healthy one. But this is just the opening, for all the way down south Mr McGregor’s nephew Thomas (Domhnall Gleeson), a neurotic control freak who works for Harrods in London, learns that he has inherited his uncle’s estate. Far more comfortable with the hustle and bustle of the city, Thomas begrudgingly makes his way up north to Windermere to evaluate what his uncle has left him. It’s when he meets his new neighbour Bea (Rose Byrne) that Thomas realises that the countryside might not be all that bad.
Bea is a painter who can’t really paint but does spend her free time drawing the local wildlife, namely Peter and his family. With an affection for the rabbits and a gentle demeanour, Bea tries to prevent Thomas from turning into his mean spirited uncle. However lacking Bea’s fondness for their fuzzy neighbours Thomas does all he can to keep them out of his garden which includes the use of explosives. What transpires is a slapstick Home Alone meets a literal Animal House with some soul searching and a contemporary soundtrack oh, and some cute talking animals.
Writers Will Gluck, who also directed, and Rob Lieber have attempted to take a classic children’s story, whilst revamping it for a modern audience in an attempt to perhaps make it more relatable. Sadly this approach doesn't really work. There is a lovely moment at the very beginning of the film that gives a bit of back story for those who don’t know the books and looks as if Potter’s illustrations have come to life. Sadly, this lasts but a few minutes and in no time at all we are back to the world of CGI talking animals interacting with live action actors.
There is no faulting the work of the animators and the animals look amazing and are incredibly cute and cuddly. However there doesn’t seem to be that magical element that made the characters endearing and instead the film seems preoccupied with silly antics - like dropping a carrot down the crack of Mr McGregor’s behind - and clearly just made-for-laughs Home Alone style boobie trap scenes. There are a few moments where the film delivers some charming scenes and these mostly come from the relationship between Bea and the rabbits. The soundtrack is incredibly jarring and would undoubtedly have had Beatrix rolling in her grave - Rancid’s Time Bomb has no business in a Peter Rabbit film, in my opinion.
The film tries hard to please modern audiences and in doing so lacks much of the charm associated with the characters
Domhnall Gleeson does a pretty good job of playing the meticulously controlling Thomas and does well at being the butt of most of the hoopla between man and nature. Rose Byrne is equally as good despite being under used and given less screen time, which is a shame, but she does have some good on screen chemistry with Gleeson. The characterisation of Peter seems to have gone in a slightly different direction; he’s less the naughty childlike rabbit going against his mother’s orders and more interested in turf warfare no matter what the cost. The other characters from the books make frequent brief appearances but make no mistake this is a film about Peter Rabbit.
There were a lot of laughs during the screening from children clearly enjoying the slapstick comedy moments which I understand is primarily who the film is aimed at. But I can’t help feeling slightly annoyed that this wasn’t done better and it lacked a lot of the charm that it could have had, had it tried less hard to be hip and cool and instead focused on telling the story of Peter Rabbit in keeping with the book. This is definitely a film for children and, despite some potentially problematic scenes, I should imagine it would make a great afternoon out for the kids.
Our Review Ethos
To comment on what you've read here, click the Discussion tab and post a reply.