THIS RABBIT IS CUTE, FUNNY, BUT NOTHING SPECIAL!
By Nico Beland
Movie Review: ** ½ out of 4
The world of Beatrix Potter comes to life in Peter Rabbit
Is a bad marketing campaign in Sony’s contract or something? First the 2016 Ghostbusters movie, then Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, and now this, a film adaptation of the beloved children’s book character, Peter Rabbit.
I was ready to despise the latest cash-cow from Sony when I first saw the trailer, and the marketing itself looked like their Smurfs movies but with CG rabbits. However, I was still optimistic about Peter Rabbit and decided to give the movie a chance, after all it wouldn’t be the first time Sony gave us a good movie with bad publicity.
Thankfully the movie doesn’t quite live up to the dreaded trailers, but was the movie “Good”? Eh, I wouldn’t go that far. It’s a harmless kids’ movie with nice animation, fast slapstick-filled humor, and cute little animals running around and causing trouble, but with a few self-aware jokes that poke fun at several kids’ movie tropes and clichés thrown in that get a good laugh.
Unfortunately, the plot is recycled and outside of those cliché jabs, it doesn’t do much to differentiate from other family movies, a lot of jokes fall flat and are repeated, and the soundtrack is distracting and doesn’t fit a Beatrix Potter environment. I’m not talking about the score here, I’m talking about the inevitable pop songs that play in the background.
The film follows Peter Rabbit (voiced by James Corden-Gavin & Stacey, Begin Again, Into the Woods), his cousin, Benjamin (voiced by Colin Moody), and his triplet sisters, Flopsy (voiced by Margot Robbie-The Wolf of Wall Street, Suicide Squad, I, Tonya), Mopsy (voiced by Elizabeth Debicki-The Great Gatsby (2013), The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2), and Cottontail (voiced by Daisy Ridley-Star Warsfranchise, Only Yesterday, Murder on the Orient Express (2017)) spending most of their days picking on their neighbor, Mr. McGregor (Sam Neill-The Piano, Jurassic Park, Hunt for the Wilderpeople) and stealing vegetables from his garden. The rabbits are friends with a free-spirited woman named Bea (Rose Byrne-Neighbors, X-Men franchise, Spy) who has a passion for painting and being surrounded by nature and is a motherly figure for the rabbits.
After Mr. McGregor’s sudden death, the rabbits think their human neighbor problems are over and they can get all the vegetables they need. Until, his nephew from London named Thomas (Domhnall Gleeson-Harry Potter franchise, Ex-Machina, Star Wars franchise), who has an unhealthy hatred of rabbits, inherits his home and does everything he can to keep them out.
Eventually Thomas grows a liking to Bea which sets off a feud for attention between Peter and Thomas. They clash, and all sorts of hilarity ensues as the rabbits turn Thomas’ life upside-down.
The film also features the voices of Byrne as Jemima Puddle-Duck, Neill as Tommy Brock, Gleeson as Mr. Jeremy Fisher, Sia (My Little Pony: The Movie) as Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle, Ewen Leslie (Dead Europe, The Daughter, The Butterfly Tree) as Pigling Bland, Rachel Ward (Night School, The Umbrella Woman, Blackbeard) as Josephine Rabbit, Bryan Brown (Stir, Rebel, The Thorn Birds) as Mr. Rabbit, and David Wenham (Dark City, The Lord of the Rings 2 and 3, Lion) as Johnny Town-Mouse.
Overall, Peter Rabbit is a fine family movie, it isn’t high quality entertainment like Coco or Paddington 2, but it’s definitely an improvement over the much-despised Emoji Movie. The animation is colorful and lively, the humor when done right without repeats are funny, and it has a good heart.
The animation is colorful and despite the animated characters resembling real-life animals, the animators added a lot of personality in the movements and facial features of the characters, not to mention fast slapstick. They even have hand-drawn animated scenes that look like the illustrations to Beatrix Potter’s books, and they’re absolutely beautiful to look at and done in a very clever way.
Peter is mischievous, arrogant, and cracking jokes, but still remains a likable character, though his attitude can get a little annoying at times. Domhnall Gleeson’s performance as Thomas is the highlight of the film, he’s over-the-top, hamming it up, and it looks like he’s having a great time on-screen, and I have to give the movie props for not making him a straight-up villain, despite him being an antagonist to the rabbits.
The humor, to me, was very hit or miss, I dug the jokes that made fun of all the common tropes and clichés found in most children’s movies, but a lot of the physical gags didn’t leave much of an impression nor did the humor that only catered to the kids in the audience, and especially when an unfunny joke gets repeated several times as the movie progresses. At least I got some laughs out of this movie, which is more than what I could say about a bad Happy Madison project or a Friedberg and Seltzer spoof movie.
I felt this movie needed to be put in the hands of the crew behind Paddington in terms of its humor and execution. I don’t remember butt jokes in the books nor would I imagine a song like 500 Miles playing in the background of a Peter Rabbit story.
Oh well, it’s too innocent to nitpick it like mad, kids and families will probably find something to appreciate about Peter Rabbit. It doesn’t quite do the books justice, but I’d say it’s worth at least a viewing.
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