Movie Review: Peter Rabbit Hops and Misses

Movie Review: Peter Rabbit Hops and Misses
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About the Author

Tyler Collins

Tyler Collins

Tyler Collins is a thespian and performer who has worked with theatre, film, and TV across Ontario. He comes from Campbellton, NB, and has lived in North Oakville nearly 20 years. Currently, he studies Journalism at Sheridan College. Twitter: @MrTyCollins

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Most young children today may be unfamiliar with the pleasant character of Peter Rabbit. The version currently playing in theatres, however, may confuse parents who remember the classic stories. And that’s both good and bad.

The winsomeness and gentle charm that made Beatrix Potter’s books so heartwarming has been sucked out of the film. Instead of a simple and engaging story, writer/director Will Gluck (Sony’s Annie) has created a world made squeaky-clean by Hollywood’s rigidness.

Sony Animation’s new take on the classic character, while inspired by Potter’s books, is an original story about a new nemesis for Peter Rabbit (James Corden) and his siblings. Following Old McGregor’s sudden heart attack, his home and lavish vegetable garden are left to his city-slicker nephew (Domhnall Gleeson, also named McGregor).

The new squabble is complicated as Peter and young McGregor vie for the love and attention of an attractive painter (Rose Byrne) who also lives in the stunning English countryside. Peter must soon decide: what is he really fighting for?

Rabbits are cunning as they are energetic – but Peter and his fuzzy friends seldom act this way. Sure, their speed and light footwork allow a few clever scenes of vegetable ransacking. It’s a shame the rest of the time Peter speaks so rudely and bombastic.

Photo: Sony Animation.

Corden’s characterization of the titular bunny is devoid of all joy and earnestness. He seems to care only about looking popular and put-together in front of his friends and siblings. His attractive persona from Corden’s late-night television show doesn’t translate well to this cynical interpretation.

Even worse, most of the humour is crass rather than creative. The Looney Tunes-style slapstick doesn’t fit in with this cozy style of family comedy. (There is though, I’ll admit, one hilarious running gag with a rooster.)

Peter and McGregor begin the movie aggressively senile, uptight and unlikeable. The best moments are in the final half hour when both characters relax, and the tone becomes much sweeter. Watching them put their insecurities aside and trade shallow gags for their clever adventures.

Young children will be greatly amused; most of the children under 10 at my screening giggled from start to finish. Parents will spend most of the short hour and a half checking their watches. If you’re hoping to be enchanted by the whimsical delight of traditional Peter Rabbit, you’ll be disappointed.

This new rabbit and new McGregor, however, do grow on audiences as the film goes on. It’s inoffensive and pleasant enough to distract viewers for a short time. But there’s nothing special or inventive that’s worth hopping to the cinema for.

Peter Rabbit
2 out of 4 stars

G, 1hr 34mins. Family Comedy.
Written and Directed by Will Gluck.
Starring James Corden, Domhnall Gleeson and Rose Bryne.
Now Playing at Film.Ca Cinemas, Cineplex Winston Churchill and Cineplex Oakville & VIP.

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