Reviewed by Rachael Kaines
The new Peter Rabbit film has many tell-tale signs of an absolute stinker. Take some beloved British children’s stories, written by a woman who refused to sell out her characters to Disney, add a few much derided actors (one in particular who has made a leap across the pond that has stoked this disdain ever further), plus live action animation of animals telling jokes and singing and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what you’re getting with Will Gluck’s Peter Rabbit. Apart from the fact that you will be wrong.
Because Peter Rabbit is really actually quite good. Many would argue that Peter deserved to stay where he was — in the past — if they do have to bring him into the here and now, which apparently they just must do, then I can’t see how we’d get much better than this.
We meet Peter, voiced by James Corden, the mischievous bunny rabbit in the blue coat as he, his cousin, and his sisters are planning a vegetable heist from the garden of the rabbit pie loving Mr. McGregor (a brilliant, but short, turn from Sam Neill — if he isn’t the perfect grumpy old neighbour I don’t know who is). When Mr. McGregor meets his end, his city-dwelling nephew moves into the cottage, played by Domhnall Gleeson. The young McGregor is as keen on rabbits as his uncle but gets on rather better with the rabbit-loving neighbour Bea and romance ensues.
The CGI is great, and we get a view of the Beatrix Potter’s beautiful original paintings through the character Bea, played by Rose Byrne, a sort of caretaker of the rabbits and a woman who is laughably accused of anthropomorphising the creatures in place of actual human relationships. Peter Rabbit also features voice talent from the likes of Sia, Margot Robbie, and Daisy Ridley.
The slapstick is good, the jokes mostly land and, whilst the charm isn’t exactly abundant, it is real. Gluck is very consciously portraying a modern Britain, including a fair few prods at the class system, and a half-hearted attempt at multiculturalism. But the film is genuinely funny at times. But there are rapping sparrows in it, and it does walk a very fine line throughout most of it’s (thankfully short) runtime.
It may not be quite necessary to bring Peter into the twenty-first century, but seeing as they have, they have done it well. If your miniature people drag you to the cinema to watch this over Easter break, you will not only keep your breakfast down, but you may even many a fair few chuckles, if only we can let go of our presumptions and just enjoy something for what it is, whether it’s destroying your childhood or not.