There’s always a gamble when you take on a much-beloved children’s property. You roll the dice and hope to god that this character still can tap into the pulse of the latest generation. In the last couple years, we’ve seen a plethora of characters return and have varying degrees of success. For every Paddington we’ve had a Smurfs: The Lost Village and now we’re here for Peter Rabbit starring James Corden and a petting zoo filled cast of talented actors.
The story of Peter Rabbit is somewhat of a sequel to the books by Beatrix Potter the audience is immediately introduced to the status quo from the opening scene: Peter Rabbit (Corden) and his young family, twin sisters Flopsy (Margot Robbie) and Mopsy (Elizabeth Debicki, his youngest sister Cottontail (Daisy Ridley), and cousin Benjamin steal from farmer McGregor (Sam Neill) so that they can feed the animals around McGregors land. Peter has an ulterior motive in the fact that McGregor killed his father and a short time after that Peter’s mother also passed away so there is a sense of resentment towards McGregor as Peter steals from him on a daily basis. As the audience is treated to the latest heist from Peter and his family we are introduced to the main players of the human side of Peter Rabbit. We meet Bea (Rose Byrne) a kind individual who adores Peter and his siblings and despises how Mr. McGregor treats them. We are also introduced to Mr. McGregor’s distant nephew Thomas (Domhnall Gleeson) who becomes the new farmer after his uncle dies unceremoniously via a heart attack early in the film. When seeing a younger more dangerous McGregor come into his home turf Peter decides it is time to properly defend his home and so the stage is set for Peter Rabbit.
As you’ve read from the brief plot synopsis I supplied at the beginning of the review you can likely tell Peter Rabbit’s plot is easily one of the most unremarkable parts of the film. It’s highly predictable and older audiences will be able to see where the majority of the characters go throughout the 93-minute runtime (which is a perfect runtime by the way) but ultimately that’s a nitpick as this film is marketed towards kids it is just a wonderful bonus that the humour is also pitch perfect for adults as well. There is also an issue with the score and soundtrack of the film, it’s a collection of early 2000 songs which feel out of place in this film luckily the film seems to know this and every time one of these songs pops up it almost immediately takes it down with a comedic element that almost fixes this problem, almost.
The true litmus test to see if Peter Rabbit works is to be a part of an audience with children in attendance and I was lucky enough to be there for a special family preview screening and the children adored this film. There were tears when Peter and his crew were in trouble, there were gasps, guffaws and best of all the whole theatre erupted with laughter when the big physical jokes hit, a particular joke that brought the house down was a scene where Domhnall Gleeson’s Thomas gets electrocuted by the rabbits.
All this works because the cast assembled is top notch when first learning that Corden was headlining a film like this I worried it was stunt casting as he is quite the big get these days from his work on his Late Late show across the pond. Thankfully though he brings a great personality to the character of Peter Rabbit, the real MVP’s of this film though is the supporting cast, Domhnall Gleeson is incredible easily giving one of the funniest performances of his career. Another noteworthy character is Cottontail voiced by Daisy Ridley, she is a scene stealer who at times steals the film away from its lead characters.
Peter Rabbit is a great film I adored the humour and the animation of the CGI characters is top notch even if the story is deeply predictable and you’ve seen these types of characters before you’ll still enjoy what the cast brings to these characters. They bring warmth, personality and a memorability that will leave you with a huge grin on your face walking out of the cinema when it is all over.