The new adaptation of Beatrix Potter’s timeless tale of Peter Rabbit has been plagued with bad PR from the moment its first trailer hit the internet back in September 2017, some even went as far as to nickname the half live-action/half digimation as the “anti-Paddington”.
From accusations of being too boisterous and loud in its representation of an old childhood favourite, to the truly ridiculous outrage over mocking those with allergies, its detractors seemed to be literally falling over each other to denounce the movie before it even hit our screens. Which begs the question: why have so many people taken against a film they have yet to see? Could it be because our boisterous hero is being voiced by James Corden, who depending on who you ask is either “a renaissance man for the Twenty First Century”, or “a hugely annoying know-all”. In reality, the film sits somewhere in the middle between being rather sweet and engaging and slightly too knowing for its own good to be well received by a broader audience.
Directed by Will Gluck and co-written by Rob Lieber, Peter Rabbit does a pretty decent job in sticking to the original source material, bar a few changes, which were perhaps essential in order to pad out a fairly short book. We Join recently orphaned Peter (Corden) and siblings Flopsy (voiced by Margot Robbie), Mopsy (voiced by Elizabeth Debicki) and Cotton-Tail (voiced by Daisy Ridley) and their cousin Benjamin (Colin Moody) as they battle it out with old grumpy Mr McGregor (played brilliantly by Sam Neil as a real action character), over the to use of a garden patch which they feel is their birth-right.
After McGregor’s sudden and untimely departure, Peter and the gang celebrate by moving into the old man’s home and feasting on his garden patch, however the good times are short-lived and are soon brought to an end with the arrival of old McGregor’s rigid and taciturn nephew Thomas (Domhnall Gleeson) who plans to sell the house and pocket the profit. Soon young McGregor finds himself taken by kind and beautiful neighbour Bea (Rose Byrne), who also happens to be close to Peter and the gang.
Corden does a perfectly passable job as Peter, adding his own brand of relatable, if at times a little jarring, humour to the proceedings. Gleeson puts in a commendable comic turn as young Thomas, adding yet another string to an already well furnished bow by embracing the spirit of the movie with both arms and coming across as both hugely likeable and genuinely funny.
While the film doesn’t always hit the nail on the head narratively, there’s no doubt that a lot of work has gone into achieving this marriage between digital animation and live action. It is also encouraging to see that such productions can still manage to garner the kind of interest the film has, be it positive or otherwise, which can only be a good thing for the medium. All in all, a perfectly well made film bar a couple of false notes.
Peter Rabbit is in cinemas from Friday 16th of March