Cast: Rose Byrne, Domhnall Gleeson, Sam Neill, Daisy Ridley
Director: Will Gluck
Synopsis from Rotten Tomatoes: Peter Rabbit, the mischievous and adventurous hero who has captivated generations of readers, now takes on the starring role of his own irreverent, contemporary comedy with attitude. In the film, Peter’s feud with Mr. McGregor (Domhnall Gleeson) escalates to greater heights than ever before as they rival for the affections of the warm-hearted animal lover who lives next door (Rose Byrne). James Corden voices the character of Peter with playful spirit and wild charm, with Margot Robbie, Elizabeth Debicki, and Daisy Ridley performing the voice roles of the triplets, Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cottontail.
Peter Rabbit suffers from the film version of, “don’t judge a book by its cover.’ When the trailer first came out, I would have bet my life’s savings that this movie would have been 90 minutes of poorly written jokes, bad CGI, and a story that goes nowhere. However, even though it had its rough patches, I was pleasantly surprised with its charming humor and original story.
Starting off with the story, I really enjoy when a movie takes my expectations and defies them in a way that still makes sense. Just when I thought I had the story figured out, it went a totally different direction, but it worked. The story is about Peter Rabbit (voiced by James Corden) and his group of wildlife creatures as they try to steal food from Mr. McGregor’s (Gleeson) garden, but McGregor forms a relationship with t caretaker Bea (Byrne), complicating the problem. I thought for certain that the message of the film was going to be that romantic relationships come and go, but your friendships are more important, something I think is very valuable to teach the target audience. However, as the plot developed, the final act showed me that the message is completely different yet equally valuable. The message shifts to one of change can be difficult and scary, but sometimes if we embrace, we can learn something about the world around us. It was great to see that sometimes when we see ourselves as the protagonist of our own story, it can be tough to admit when we are wrong, but it is necessary for us to grow. This serious tone away from the overall comedic theme of the movie really helps make an important point for the younger viewers. Regarding the comedy, I thought a lot of the slapstick humor ending up being much funnier than I anticipated. The gold standard for slapstick comedy are the Paddington movies, and while Peter Rabbit is not at that level, it certainly entertains throughout.
While Peter Rabbit does the mandatory things correctly, that does not mean it is without fault. There are multiple scenes in the movie where the animation style changes to a more hand drawn art style. Honestly, this art style is much more impressive than the CGI that they used throughout and would have benefitted from the entire movie in that format. This film had the star power where it would have gotten a wide release regardless of the art style, so maybe they thought that the CGI would make them more money, but they sacrificed quality for profit. One other thing that could have been improved were the stunts. There are multiple scenes where humans get electrocuted on doorknobs, but it is so obvious that they were hooked up to a harness during those stunts. Great stunts look like they occurred naturally, and Peter Rabbit breaks that cardinal rule. One minor issue I had with the movie was them changing the lyrics of songs to make them rabbit-based. If you cannot use the lyrics of a song because it is inappropriate, then use another song. You do not need to make a fight song about stealing vegetables when the original lyrics work just fine.
Overall, Peter Rabbit defied my expectations in a good way even though it still fell short in a few areas. I think had the right changes been made, I think you have had a movie on par with Paddington. Unfortunately, these mistakes take an otherwise well-rounded and meaningful movie and reduce it so an above-average children’s film.
Overall Score: 7/10