We all know the character Peter Rabbit, brought into the world through the classic art of Beatrix Potter so naturally the internet will get angry when they find out that Hollywood is re-imagining the character for modern audiences. Sony Animation seemed to be using technology from the new “Alvin and the Chipmunks” movie and that “Smurfs” movie with Neil Patrick Harris (Wow remember that? *shudders*) I was never incredibly attached to the Peter Rabbit books so I didn’t have that passionate opposition to the idea of a Peter Rabbit movie. In fact, I thought the trailers were very entertaining and I was looking forward to checking the movie out. Now that it’s out people are still angry but I had to laugh at what they were angry at, I’ll get to that later.
First and foremost I should say that I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, I expected it’d be fun from how the trailers presented it but this was a pleasant surprise for me. Clocking in at only around 90 minutes, the movie is quick and to the point which is definitely a plus. I was mostly surprised at how funny the whole thing was, I’m not the biggest fan of James Corden who voices the titular character but he won me over in this. I was also surprised to see Daisy Ridley from “Star Wars” and Margot Robbie from everything voice two of Peter Rabbit’s sisters. They all have great chemistry with each other and the movie thrives on the relationship between this rabbit family.
In addition to the characters, I thought the plot was very well told! Again, I don’t have vivid memories of the old Peter Rabbit stories so I can’t really claim to care about the integrity of the character and the stories he’s involved with, I can only judge the movie as its own thing. The plot follows Peter and his siblings trying to get Mr. McGregor’s vegetables in his garden. After a mishap, Mr. McGregor suffers a heart attack and his nephew, Thomas, moves into town after being thrown out of his job for being too much of a psycho. Thomas immediately despises the rabbits and wages war against them behind the back of his new neighbor Bea, who cares for the rabbits and takes care of them after their mother passed away.
The relationships between the characters become interesting once they’re explored a bit more in-depth, the movie covers the relationship between Peter’s sisters, the relationship between Bea and Thomas, the relationship between Peter and Bea, Peter and Thomas, Peter and his cousin, etc. All the characters have nice moments they share with each other as the plot unfolds, the most interesting aspect is easily the rivalry between Peter Rabbit and Thomas. Thomas begins to fall for Bea much to Peter’s disdain, so Peter does everything he can to chase Thomas out of town. Alternatively, Thomas does everything he can to rid his garden of the wildlife.
This movie is very slapstick heavy which is probably what the fans of the classic Peter Rabbit books had a problem with. Personally, I found the action and slapstick very amusing, it reminded me of an old Looney Tunes cartoon with Elmer Fudd constantly trying to one-up Bugs Bunny. At one point Thomas even looks right at Peter and murmurs “You’re mine now...Rabbit!” and I was almost expecting him to pronounce it “Wabbit” like Fudd.
So during this war between Thomas and Peter, something happens that has sparked some real-world controversy and even caused Sony Pictures to issue an apology for a certain scene. We learn early in the movie that Thomas is allergic to blackberries, so later in the movie during a confrontation Peter commands his siblings to chuck blackberries into Thomas’ mouth. Thomas goes into shock and falls to the floor after quickly pulling out his EpiPen and using it. It’s all played for jokes but it has caused parents of children with allergies very upset and offended. They claim that the movie is ‘making light’ of allergies and insinuates that some allergic reactions are made up. They also claim that it ‘‘promotes’ actively trying to get ahead of your opponent by exploiting their weaknesses. I can see the concern here but I don’t think it’s as extreme as they’re making it out to be, in fact, I think a lot of parents complaining about this haven’t even seen the movie and they’re using knowledge they learned from word of mouth. I know this because there’s a scene LITERALLY right after this where Peter says “Food allergies are very serious and not made up.” then he looks RIGHT AT THE CAMERA and says “I don’t want to be getting any letters!” and winks at us. Are we going to have to go back to all movies made in the past and censor out anything that has a light-hearted joke about allergies? There’s a whole sequence at the end of “Mrs. Doubtfire” where a character suffers a humorous allergic reaction, is that scene not okay anymore?
The action is great, the humor is engaging and the music fits well in most scenes. I was surprised how many musical montages there were but it was a pleasant surprise. There’s also a great running gag involving these songbirds, the very start of the movie begins with the birds singing a classic musical tune to the audience only to be interrupted by Peter running through the forest and crashing into them, which is a joke that happens multiple times in the movie. I should also mention how impressed I was with the CGI on the rabbits, sometimes their facial expressions were a bit *too* human and off-putting but overall I thought all the animated characters fit really well into this live-action world. I was most impressed with how they made the rabbits move. When they weren’t talking or making facial expressions I could appreciate how fluid their jumps and dashes across the garden were. They were extremely fast and precise like how an actual rabbit would be, it seems like nowadays I should be used to what Hollywood can do in terms of CGI and animation. Definitely go check out “Peter Rabbit,” it’s a great family movie but I think it can be enjoyed by kids and adults alike. The humor was at that right balance between being completely absurd and being more grounded. Watch it while it’s still in theaters.