Peter Rabbit Review: A comedy that works if you're in the mood
This modern reboot of the adorable bunnies is an enjoyable watch with kids
Peter Rabbit opens with a quartet of birds breaking into a sickeningly sweet, self-righteous song while narrating a time-worn forest tale, so typical of films made exclusively for kids. Just when you are about to resign yourself to the predictability of it all, an out-of-control Peter Rabbit rams into the bird choir, shaking things up, and instantly shifting focus to his own goofy tale. And this in-your-face slapstick moment sets the tone for the rest of the film, which if looked at from the surface, is heart-warming and fun for the most part.
Direction: Will Gluck
Cast: Rose Byrne, Domhnall Gleeson, James Corden
It's only natural though, given it's directed by Will Gluck (the man who gave us films like Easy A and Friends with Benefits), who returns with his version of Peter Rabbit. This is an adorable character created by Beatrix Potter, twenty-nine years after Robert Zemeckis' Who Framed Roger Rabbit, an ace of a film about an animated rabbit with quirky live characters. Gluck's obvious influences, in the way he blends cutesy stuff with borderline trashy fun, extend to the entirety of this adaptation. Save for very few instances, they generally work to the film's advantage.
On top of all the sassiness, the terrific voice cast makes it easy to overlook the rather unexciting conflict, and its predictable pay-offs. James Corden, voicing the titular character of Peter, brings to life the quirky personality of the lead character - someone who shrouds his grief with a mean, devil-may-care recklessness and quick-witted retorts. It's a close contest between stars like Margot Robbie, Elizabeth Debicki, Daisy Ridley and Colin Moody as they battle it out for top honours on the supporting voice front.
The plot, about the one-upmanship between Peter and the owner of the neighbouring house (on whose lawn Peter's family base their livelihood), lends itself to a lot of 'Road Runner vs. Wile E. Coyote' action moments, which are all choreographed and shot with a lot of spunk. Consider, for example, the sequence where Thomas (the irate house-owner played rather effortlessly by Domhnall Gleeson) deploys some hilariously over-the-top security measures to keep the rodents off his property, and yet, cannot stop the animals led by Peter from enjoying a house party. It's a riot. Laugh-out-loud, running gags involving some smartly-detailed minor characters (like the pig who wears a suit and acts all suave, the rooster who wakes up surprised that the world hasn't ended every morning, and the porcupine who gets high on electric shock) keep the bad-ass comic tone of the film consistent through-out.
There are also some mainstream must-haves like toilet humour and a few inappropriate jokes. But, more importantly, the emotional beats come together quite well and makes this modern reboot -- which often sacrifices the soft melodrama of its famous source material in return for frenzied, modern narrative trappings -- an enjoyable watch with your kids.