In a quaint countryside village, Peter Rabbit follows the misadventures of the story’s namesake and his family. Having to be self-reliant in many ways, Peter has taken upon himself the unofficial role of leading his siblings, and his cousin, to ensure that they live well and have food to eat. Doing that, however, requires going into Old Mr. McGregor’s garden, which can be quite dangerous. Peter often ignores the risks and finds fun in taunting McGregor and being able to steal what he can from the garden. But the situation quickly changes when Old Mr. McGregor is no longer in the picture, and his great nephew, Mr. Thomas McGregor, leaves his life in London and moves to the house, and garden, in order shape the place up.
This adaptation of Peter Rabbit is the rivalry between Peter, voiced by James Corden, and Thomas McGregor, played by Domhnall Gleeson. Their fight for control over the garden, and for the heart of their neighbor, Bea, played by Rose Byrn, drives the story forward. McGregor, finding comfort in his day job and the city, is unaccustomed to life in the country, surrounded by animals, and will do whatever he can to keep them out. Peter Rabbit, of course, will do whatever he can to get into the garden. Throughout it all, Bea is oblivious to what is going on and that leads to misunderstanding and confusion as events unfold.
Peter Rabbit is a story of personal responsibility and accountability. It teaches the importance of understanding others, even when they may be different or have a different worldview. It is a fun, charming and visually appealing film and one that is appropriate for any child and family. The film is not just for children, as there are references made throughout that go right over their heads and are best understood by the adults in the audience.
Domhnall Gleeson and Rose Byrn do an excellent job portraying their characters. Gleeson conveys arrogance and determination, often scheming and trying to hide his true self from Byrn’s character. Byrn, on the other hand, does well in acting as a hopeful young woman, idealistic, but also somewhat naive. The chemistry between these two is present and welcome.
James Corden’s voice acting of Peter Rabbit is done well enough, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that somebody else should have been tapped for this role. Corden’s voice does not appropriately match the appearance and mannerisms of Peter throughout the film.
Additionally, there are some jokes that come up a number of times. They tire quickly and, while the children likely don’t mind, adults are left waiting for the joke to end and the story to move on. One scene, in particular, is of a painting being hung on a wall, which takes far too long. The fourth wall is also broken throughout the film and, while it works some of the time, it doesn’t always work with Peter Rabbit.
There has been some controversy over two scenes in the movie. They both focus on Thomas McGregor’s allergy to blackberries. The first making fun of the allergy itself and the second shows the rabbits purposefully feeding McGregor a blackberry, forcing him to scramble and use an EpiPen. Some of those criticizing the movie have called for a boycott.
Problems aside, it is still a beautifully shot film, capturing the serenity and comfort of the countryside. The landscapes are charming, the grass and gardens are green, and it’s just a perfect place to find relaxation and clarity away from the city.
This review was crossposted with Salt Lake Film Review