Peter Rabbit : It entertains, draws laughs but lacks a solid screenplay
Movie Review by Annie Cynthia (Rocheston Certified Movie Critic)
The movie begins with the sweet lyricism and lightness of Beatrix Potter’s book,The Tale of Peter Rabbit, with a chorus of birds zooming across the English countryside – almost resembling the sound of music’s title score – before we are introduced to Peter, a blue jacketed, mischievous and egoistic rabbit, who also reminds us of the famous Bugs Bunny and his histrionics. While the film does have funny moments and the quaint countryside is captured explicitly, it is the crass mix of CGI and live action that dampens the impact of the animation film. To top that, Peter rabbit’s voice-over by an older actor-comedian, James Gordon seems to lack the mischievous spunk required for the character. Also, the character’s over-enthusiasm in certain sequences fails to elicit the desired response from the audience.
The story, as narrated by Margot Robbie in the background, introduces us to an orphaned rabbit Peter and his family, that includes triplet sisters Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail and cousin Benjamin, who are on an incessant mission to raid the old neighbour, McGregor’s. When McGregor dies of heart attack, the animals take over his house and start feasting on the farm. However, soon they have to deal with McGregor’s cousin, Thomas, who inherits the property and arrives with a plan to sell the farm away. But he has no idea what he is up against Peter and his cousins as they plan strategies to chase him away. Amidst this ruckus, Thomas meets Bea, a kind-hearted, rabbit-loving artiste who takes care of the rabbits and falls for her. The story follows pursuits of Thomas and Peter to gain control of McGregor’s farm and how Bea, becomes a common weakness of the rivals.
The movie has elements that will remind you of the film, Paddington and a truck sequence, that looks similar to the one in Shaun the Sheep. While we look into the character details – Sam Neil (Joe McGregor) appears in the first 15 minutes as the bunny-hating old man and this role is taken over by his much younger heir, Thomas (Domhnall Gleeson) a fastidious and recently-fired manager of a famous toy store, who develops an instant bitterness towards the rabbits. But, his initial intent on selling the farm turns lopsided after he meets the endearing artiste, Bea (Rose Byrne), who loves the rabbits. The duo’s chemistry onscreen is not a fairy tale, but they sure do look like a lot in love and give us rare moments of romance in this film.
The film is an ode to readers of Potter’s classic, but there is a lot of malevolence between the leads. The face-offs between Thomas and Peter and his team of rabbits as well as the conversation among the rabbits does draw in plenty of laughter. Then there are an ensemble of animals like the friendly fox, a dreamy hedgehog, a pig with a huge appetite and a rooster with a high-pitched voice, who manage to add their nuances to the tale and liven up the storyline.
It is interesting that American director Will Gluck has directed and produced this film, that is a typical British humor. The story toggles between being a slapstick comedy and an intelligent comedy – somehow confusing the audience. Rob Lieber and Will Gluck have joined hands in writing the not-so-robust screenplay. But despite its flaws, the film is sure to entertain its primary audience, the kids and is sure to get a thumbs-up from them.