"Peter Rabbit" Review

Title: Peter Rabbit
Director: Will Gluck
Studio: Sony Pictures Animation
Genre(s): Comedy
Rated: PG (For some rude humor and action)

For many in the world, the stories of Beatrix Potter are timeless.  The story of Peter Rabbit has been particular favorite for many children across a few generations, and it is one of the most popular stories in children’s literature.  The idea of Sony Animation adapting the story into a CGI/live action hybrid certainly isn’t a direction I personally would have taken (and many are likely to take issue with the pacing and sarcasm involved), but it is a movie that, overall, is not quite as bad as you might be led to believe upon first inspection.  True, it doesn’t have the classic look and feel of the books, but when you realize this is more of a modern day sequel than it is a retelling of the original, you can sort of give the movie a little wiggle room.  Besides, there are a few “flashback” sequences of the original story, which are lovingly recreated with hand painted illustrations. 

They look so good, part of me hopes that the BluRay will have a bonus cartoon of the book in this very style on it.  Oh, sorry, I need to be discussing THIS version of Peter Rabbit.  Anyway, this version of the character is voiced by James Corden and (as previously mentioned) is a lot more sarcastic and fast talking than you might be used to.  He’s sort of an unofficial leader to the animals and is the one who leads the charge to entering Mr. MgGregor’s garden on a weekly basis.  When the bitter old man dies after a lifetime of poor eating habits though, his nephew Thomas McGregor (Domhnall Gleeson) takes over the house with the intention of fixing it up and selling it.  He might, however, be persuaded to stay and live a nice life in the country side thanks to his human neighbor Bea (Rose Byrne), who is a key reason many of the animals are still alive. 

Bea is a sweet girl that any man would be happy to have, and Thomas is actually pretty likable as the would be antagonist, which makes their courtship all the more enjoyable.  It was pretty smart of the producers to make McGregor a more sympathetic person in this movie.  He is neither unprovokedly mean or even petty.  He has cleanliness issues, sure, but the main problems come from Peter Rabbit himself, who feels so threatened by his relationship with Bea, that he decides to try and run the bad human off the farm before there is even a reason to.  For parents, there will be a good message about what the difference is between self-defense and instigating problems (as well as a talk about allergies thanks to a blueberry scene that got WAY more attention than I expected it to in the weeks since the films release).  What is going to annoy book purists is that the tone of the movie is not sweet all the time.  There are fart jokes, burping, and pop culture references that will unquestionably date this movie. 

As someone who always considered Peter Rabbit to be an innocent kid who liked to push his luck, James Corden would not have been my first choice of actors, as the character comes off as too much of a knowing jerk at times.  What has saved the production might be director Will Gluck, who is a good mainstream director who makes some smart visual shots, and knows how to balance the silly with the charming.  It’s not a perfect compromise by any stretch of the imagination, but it works enough that it wasn’t painful either.  Also, this being a sequel to the book rather than a visual representation means parents can still read it to their kids without them saying “mommy, what happened to the part where Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle bit on the electric fence?”  Released at any other time of the year, “Peter Rabbit” might have earned some ire, but during a time when family films are more rare, this had enough heart and enjoyment to get me to smile and nod in approval.  Still, if "Paddington 2" is still playing in your area, I'd recommend that over this in a heartbeat.

Parents, there is some mild language and crude humor.  Recommended for ages 7 and up.