“You think you know him? Well … think again!”
Directed by Will Gluck (Easy A)
Starring James Corden (Cats), Colin Moody, Margot Robbie (Sucicide Squad), Rose Byrne (Spy), Domhnall Gleeson (Star Wars: The Force Awakens), Sam Neill (Daybreakers), Daisy Ridley (Murder on the Orient Express) and Elizabeth Debicki (The Man from UNCLE)
Peter Rabbit (Corden) live in the Lake District with his sisters, Flopsy (Robbie), Mopsy (Debicki) and Cottontail (Ridley), and their cousin Benjamin (Moody), raiding the garden of grumpy Mr MacGregor (Neill), who killed their father and wants to eat them in one or more pies, and enjoying the kindness of his neighbour Bea (Byrne), an artist and rabbit-lover who has been their surrogate mother since their own parents died. When MacGregor’s pursuit of Peter provokes a fatal heart attack, the rabbits claim the garden for their own, but a previously unknown great nephew, Thomas MacGregor (Gleeson) proves an obstacle.
As Bea and Thomas grow close, Peter becomes increasingly desperate to drive the newcomer out, while Thomas attempts to secure his house against the rabbits. Matters escalate, until a final confrontation results in the destruction of the garden, the rabbits’ burrow and Bea’s house. Thomas leaves in disgrace, and Peter is left to question the virtue of his actions.
What’s wrong with it?
The Tale of Peter Rabbit is the first in a series of 23 short books by Lake District author Beatrix Potter. Despite darker touches – Mr MacGregor certainly wants to eat Peter Rabbit, despite his jacket and evident sentience – they are noted for their gentle wit. Gentle wit is not this film’s stock in trade.
Peter literally tries to kill Thomas on at least two occasions.
What’s right with it?
I have seen some or all of this film five or six times over the last week and I can still stand it, so that’s something.
None of the female rabbits have juge eyebrows, gynomorphic curves or lippy.
The film has an excellent, if occasionally brutal, sense of physical comedy.
There is very little cringe humour, and refreshingly few fart gags.
How bad is it really?
Peter Rabbit is just… weird, mixing childish humour with cultural deep cuts and a bit of light attempted murder and a running gag about Cottontail apparently having never truly come back from the ‘Nam or something.
Maybe it’s just self-defence because my daughter keeps watching it, but I kind of like it.
Best bit (if such there is)?
There are a couple of good – if confusingly diegetic – musical numbers, but my favourite moment comes when Peter is persuading Thomas to return to the country – while Harrods’ security staff try to break into the store room to arrest Thomas – and tells him to ‘listen to [his] heart’.
“And right now, your heart is telling you to turn left, take six paces to that window, break it open and let’s get the heck out of here!”
What’s up with…?
- Where do they get the jackets? How sentient are these animals, and who knows about it? Anthropomorphic animals get weird alongside live action humans.
Production values – Blending CGI with live action is always a little rough, but the two parts look pretty good here, and the joins aren’t bad. 8
Dialogue and performances – A series of good performances from a covertly antipodean cast make the most of a lively script with just enough in it for parents. I actually don’t know why it works, but it does. 6
Plot and execution – The film manages a rare feat, portraying its loveable scamp as a complex and highly flawed character with genuine growth. 7
Randomness – The whole set-up is pretty random, but the film sticks to its weird guns. 5
Waste of potential – I went into this really expecting to hate it, so good job. 5