How many variations on a story about a rabbit sneaking into a garden to steal vegetables can we have? This feature adaptation of the Beatrice Potter books tells us not as much as the producers would like.
I have a problem with Peter Rabbit, in particular the fairly recent animated series you can find running on children’s channels.
In that series, Peter Rabbit comes across as an arrogant, egotistical, spoilt little brat. It’s a shame than that writer and director Will Gluck (Annie, Friends With Benefits) appears to have taken inspiration from the series for this film.
The problems begin from the off. It’s a fact that, generally, stop motion and animated features, even the bad ones, usually manage to get one thing right and that is; the voices. Usually they have an uncanny ability to match voice with character perfectly.
Not so here. James Corden (The Emoji Movie, Trolls) voices Peter with all the egotistical, arrogant, spoilt little bratness Corden is known for. The voice, a nearly forty-year old man, doesn’t sit right with this young, at most, teen rabbit.
Sam Neill (Hunt For The Wilderpeople, The Commuter) plays the original Mr. McGregor, the man whose garden veg the rabbits are continuously trying to steal. When he kicks the bucket, a distant relative in Domhnall Gleeson (Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Mother!) takes over the house.
This brings us to the second problem I have with the Peter Rabbit universe. I don’t know who it’s aimed at, never have. Is it aimed at kids? To what end? What is it meant to be teaching them? That it’s fine to stroll into someone else’s place and take what you want and, while you are at it, make a fool of them, laugh at them? Not the sort of message I would want my kids to take and act on.
But waltz in and take from the garden Peter does, along with his family Sia (the singer), Colin Moody (Pirate Islands, The Chronicles Of Narnia), Margot Robbie (I, Tonya, Suicide Squad), Elizabeth Debicki (The Cloverfield Paradox, Guardian’s Of The Galaxy Vol. 2) and Daisy Ridley (Murder On The Orient Express, Star Wars: The Last Jedi). Don’t worry about the rest of the family though, the story doesn’t really involve them much and we learn little, if anything, about most of them, for that would sacrifice screen time from Mr. Corden, heaven forbid.
Gleeson isn’t a fan of rabbits and wages war trying to rid his garden of them so that he can sell the property and get back to his life in London. But, there’s a problem, he’s fallen in love with the neighbour, Rose Byrne (Spy, Insidious), who loves the fluffy little bunnies.
Long story short, war is waged, they fall out, upset each other, a small adventure takes place, badda-bing-badda-boom, they’re all back together again as one big happy family, the end.
This is dragged out for an hour and 35 minutes. There are two good things in that time; one is the interaction between animated characters and human characters, it’s come a long way since the Garfield movies anyway!
The second is Will Reichelt (a visual effects supervisor on the movie), who voices the Rooster, known as JW Rooster II. It’s without doubt the funniest thing in the movie, I’d easily argue the only funny thing in the movie, but it is very funny.
If you’ve ever wondered what a rooster is saying when they squawk at the sun each morning, after watching this you’ll know. “No way! The sun came up again!…” he exclaims the first time we’re introduced to him, over half-way through which is too long a wait.
Those hoping for a cute, bunny tale that harks back to the innocence of Potter stories will be disappointed. This Peter Rabbit is more likely to grate your gears than grate your carrots.