Collin's been a movie critic since 2009. In real life he works in marketing and is also a novelist ("Good Riddance" published in Oct 2015).
Watching Peter Rabbit, the latest hybrid live-action/animated flick from Sony Pictures Animation, you probably won’t be able to stop picturing Beatrix Potter rolling over in her grave at the legacy of her beloved little bunny. But, like 2010’s Alice in Wonderland and the entirety of Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne series, just because something doesn’t remotely resemble its source material doesn’t mean it can’t still be entertaining. And Peter Rabbit is.
Playing like a perfect blend of Paddington’s whimsy (and CGI technology) and the cartoonish shenanigans of Home Alone and the Looney Toons cartoons, Peter Rabbit appeals squarely to the pre-teen and younger set, while also giving adults enough to enjoy that they’ll be able to avoid constant eye-rolls.
James Corden provides the voice of the titular rabbit, who spends his days trying to pilfer from the veggie garden of old Mr. McGregor (Sam Neill) in the English countryside. Peter’s sisters Flopsy (Margot Robbie), Mopsy (Elizabeth Debicki), and Cottontail (Daisy Ridley) are along for the ride, too, along with many of the original characters from Potter’s classic books.
When McGregor keels over from a heart attack, his great nephew Thomas (Domhnall Gleeson) inherits the house and garden, but he’s a city guy angling for a promotion at Harrod’s and only wants to sell the house and get back to London.
Peter and his friends, meanwhile, have moved into the vacated house and made a mess of the place while enjoying the unfettered garden access. When Thomas arrives to inspect his inheritance, the movie kicks into gear, as the faceoff between man and rabbit gets underway.
Echoing the goofball violence from Home Alone, the movie provides plenty of opportunity for both Thomas and Peter to devise a variety of torturous methods to make the other vacate the premises. From electrical fences to dynamite, nothing is off limits, and heaping helpings of slapsticky violence ensue.
Complicating things is Bea (Rose Bryne), the comely neighbor who has befriended Peter and his buddies and who spends her days creating paintings of them. When she and Thomas end up falling for each other, Peter is left out in the cold, and the war between man and bunny escalates. Feelings are hurt, accusations fly, and things naturally get way, way out of hand.
Director Will Gluck (Easy A, Friends with Benefits) ensures Peter Rabbit walks the fine line between cute little kids movie and Three Stooges-esque comedy, infusing the film with just enough heart to keep the whole family invested. And the witty script, which Gluck co-wrote with Rob Leiber, gives the voice cast (and the real-life humans) plenty to work with. It may not resemble anything close to what Beatrix Potter created more than a hundred years ago, but today’s Peter Rabbit is still a marvelously fun way to while away ninety minutes.