Peter Rabbit review
What do I know about Peter Rabbit? Aside that I see that bunny in a lot of baby nurseries and Easter decorations, the character comes from a series of short stories written by Beatrix Potter. It has been a long time since I've read them, but I recall them being cautionary tales about anthropomorphic rabbits that live like people, but still rely on instinct to survive in a human world. They were also gentle stories that were never meant to be anything more then quaint. They weren’t literary masterpieces, but the characters were cute and had always been a good option for kids (little kids, like under five).
Something like Peter Rabbit falls under the same category of children's books of Richard Scary and Maurice Sendak; just simple tales of human-like animals growing up and living. There's nothing wrong with any of these. In fact, that makes them memorable for being successful children's books (which are difficult to write). While a Peter Rabbit movie is not impossible, I'd imagine bringing in a great moviemaker like Hayao Miyazaki to evolve the story of the playful bunny. But I guess we'll have to deal with this live action version of Peter Rabbit.
Some time has passed since the original stories and Peter Rabbit (played by James Corden) is now an adult who still watches over his triplet sisters, Mopsy (played by Elizabeth Debicki), Flopsy (played by Margot Robbie), and Cottontail (played by Daisy Ridley) along with his cousin Benjamin Bunny (played by Colin Moody). Peter spends his days making Mr. McGregor (played by Sam Neill) a living Hell while stealing from his vegetable garden. He and the other rabbits protected by a local artist Bea (played by Rose Byrne) who treats them like her own children.
One day, Mr. McGregor suffers a fatal heart attack, giving Peter the conclusion that their troubles are finally over. Meanwhile, McGregor's great nephew Thomas McGregor (Played by Domhnall Gleeson) is informed of his uncles death and inherits his country home. He visits the country to see his home and only wants to set it up to sell it. Before he can do that, he also seeks to get rid of Peter Rabbit to keep the "vermin" out of the garden. At the same time, he and Bea start a relationship, which doesn't sit with Peter too well. It's a battle to see who the garden belongs to; the humans or the rabbits.
The initial trailers for Peter Rabbit were some of the worst I've seen, so naturally, my expectations were pretty low. The final movie…is just what I expected; lowbrow and not representing the characters that well. I may have not read the Peter Rabbit stories in a while, but I don't remember this rabbit being this obnoxious. Not necessarily a terrible character or even one with bad morals, I found him very annoying. A lot of it has to do with James Cordon's delivery whose voice consist of pressing sandpaper against your ears for an hour and a half.
It doesn't help that the tone is all over the map. Director Will Gluck (Easy A, Annie) is trying to do two things: adapt part of the stories, but to also make Peter Rabbit "hip, cool, and with it". The not only makes the movie more like a marketing ploy, but this feels like a product from the late 1990s. I swear, there's even a segment of raping birds over a Rocky-like training montage. I doubt that this is what Beatrix Potter had in mind when writing her stories.
If the animals are more like Looney Tunes characters, how do the humans hold up? Surprisingly, they are the best elements. Not only does Domhall Gleeson get some genuine laughs, but his romance with Rose Byrne was nice and romantic. I was far more interested in their story then Peter Rabbits. I think part of the problem is because I enjoyed their characters a lot, I sympathized with Thomas McGregor too much. Yeah, the movie does try to make him different from his animal hating uncle, it seems also keen on making him both a villain and a hero. While I love grey characters, his arc doesn't feel earned.
I'll give this one rabbit pie out of five. Were bound to get family movies like this every now and then. I guess Peter Rabbit had to be one of them. I certainly cannot recommend this to adults or families with older children. Like the books, this is okay for really little kids. But then again, I'd just recommend Paddington 2 or Coco again. Peter Rabbit has a lot of potential to be a sweet story, but in this complicated garden, no one is escaping.