Peter Rabbit Movie Review (Spoiler Free)
This British live-action animation is a fun little Easter picture that can be enjoyed by the whole family. Is it as good as Paddington? Well, go on and read!
Genre: Animation / Comedy / Fantasy
Director: Will Gluck
Cast: James Corden, Rose Byrne, Domhnall Gleeson, Daisy Ridley, Margot Robbie, Elizabeth Debicki, Colin Moody, Ewen Leslie, Sia, Marianne Jean-Baptiste & Sam Neill.
Run Time: 95 min.
US Release: 09 February 2018
UK Release: 16 March 2018
German Release: 18 March 2018
It’s Easter time, which means hunting for eggs while a magical bunny is hopping around the world. So what better time to talk about a movie that stars a talking rabbit, sporting a blue jeans jacket? I am talking about Peter Rabbit, the adaptation based on the beloved children's stories of the same name. Now, I wasn’t really looking forward to seeing this British production, especially after witnessing the horrible trailer that marketed this flick but I need to confess that I left the cinema pleasantly surprised. So, is it any good? It does have quite a few positives but it also contains quite a number of flaws.
Based on the beloved kiddie-tales, this live-action animation sees Peter (Corden), his three sisters Flopsy (Robbie), Mopsy (Debicki), Cottontail (Daisy), and their cousin Benjamin (Moody) spend their days outside, harassing old farmer McGregor and stealing from his vegetable garden. Bea (Byrne) a lover of nature protects them from the old grumpy man. When Thomas, one of McGregor’s relatives comes to visit, Bea starts falling in love with him, much to the dismay of Peter.
Following the success of both Paddington live-action animations, the British film-industry realised that adaptations of their national children-books can lead to successful box-office results, so we obtained this feature based on the Peter Rabbit books. The biggest issue the story suffers from, is a feeling that the production team didn’t believe in the film, thus including story arcs and jokes that were totally unnecessary, such as the animals partying in old McGregor's house. That scene took up ten/fifteen minutes of the overall runtime but added nothing to the narrative.
It is a shame that the studio had that little faith in the plot, as underneath all that furry fluff is a story with heart that respects the source material. In fact, what I like most about this flick is that it is a continuation of the original tales and not a rehash of the old novels. It also doesn’t shy away from showing that death is a natural course of life, either by age or accident, which I find very refreshing since most kid films try to cover up that point. While the script tries to humanise the animals, it also makes sure to display their key characteristics on which they always fall back too and used as a comedic plot point. It also includes a beautiful, innocent romantic subplot between the two humans Bea and Thomas McGregor.
This brings me to the dialogue; while some of the jokes are physically cringeworthy, a lot of them succeeded thanks to the dry-black British humour. Some of the jokes are even continuations of previous punchlines, adding to the amusement. This is rare in comedies, as most overhaul previously made jokes to their death.
James Corden, who does a wonderful job at lending the main character his voice, plays Peter Rabbit. Peter can be quite the mischievous bunny but has always the best intentions at heart. The problem with this character, however, is that he behaves like a real jerk at times, therefore making it hard to truly like him. For a movie whose main focus is this character, this is a heavy problem. Nevertheless, he is willing to learn, even if he keeps up his carefree attitude.
Rose Byrne’s rendition of Bea is really sweet; her character is an artist who in her free time draws pictures of the bunnies, much like the ones in the books. Bea is based on the author of the Peter Rabbit tales, Beatrix Potter. Byrne has amazing chemistry with Domhnall Gleeson, who plays Thomas McGregor. I was invested at times more in their growing relationship than the main plot about the rabbits.
Margot Robbie, Elizabeth Debicki and Daisy Ridley voice Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cottontail respectively. While they are an enjoyable addition to the cast with funny one-liners, the characters are also very one-dimensional and shallow. Benjamin, who is Peter’s cousin and voiced by Colin Moody, is far more interesting and acts as Peter’s conscience, showing him the difference between wrong or right.
The animation in Peter Rabbit is brilliant! The bunnies look real and the facial expressions used, give them believable anthropomorphic qualities. The fur, the eyes, as well as the movements are brilliantly animated. Then again, there were other animals, such as the rooster, that looked cheaper when compared with the main animal characters. It also includes original 2-D animation from time to time, which looks exactly like the original drawings from the tales. An issue I found distracting is that when computer-generated imagery is included in real-action sequences, which make it looks out of place.
As I said before, this story includes unnecessary additions since the studio had seemingly little faith in its own product. One of those aspects are a number of popular charts hit songs that are integrated but lyrically modified. These are sung by a couple of birds that appear every once in while. It is utterly annoying and one of the biggest criticisms I have concerning this feature.
Verdict: Will Gluck’s adaptation of the beloved children’s book by Beatrix Potter may not beat the Paddington flicks, but it is a light and entertaining movie for Easter. The narrative has some issues, mainly the sing-a-longs as well as the constant shift of atmosphere, but it also manages to surprise with heart and respect for the source material. It includes interesting human characters, in particular Bea and Thomas, whose blossoming romance does manage to overshadow Peter’s own story at times. Peter himself is not written as the nicest lead character and it is not always easy to root for him, as he behaves a little douchey. The CGI is fantastic! Most animals, especially, the bunnies, look amazing but it does not always integrate well with the live-action picture. I did have a fun time in theatres and will give Peter Rabbit a well-deserved 6.5 out of 10.