Every year about this time, it seems like there’s that one Best Picture nominee I never get around to seeing. At the rate things are going this year, it’s going to be Phantom Thread, which I keep saying I am going to see and then something else comes up.
This week, that something was curiosity after Ryan said the new Peter Rabbit was like a kids movie version of Deadpool. And so, here we are.
So, what is this version of Peter Rabbit? Well, it’s a slapsticky, very modern story that features the characters created by children’s book author Beatrix Potter and aside from the names and the looks of the rabbits, there isn’t much there in common with her work. We do learn the events of her original story happened well before the movie started, but this movie doesn’t even begin to play out like one of Potter’s books.
And you know what? That’s not a bad thing.
After the original Mr. McGregor (Sam Neill) dies of a sudden heart attack, protagonist Peter (James Corden), his chubby cousin Benjamin Bunny (Colin Moody), and Peter’s three sisters in the form of bossy Flopsy (Elizabeth Debicki), nervous Mopsy (Margot Robbie), and crazy Cottontail (Daisy Ridley) seem to think life has gotten a whole lot sweater. The nice woman in the house next to McGregor;s, Bea (Rose Byrne), is still treating them like her children, and the house and garden are up for grabs.
But then a new Mr. McGregor (Domhnall Gleeson) moves in, the original’s nephew who just inherited the estate, and he wants to sell the place to open a toy shop. He’s obsessed with order, doesn’t care much for rabbits, and soon he and Bea start a relationship, much to chagrin of Peter. What follows is a war between the rabbits and the new McGregor, and the movie actually mostly works. Audience tolerance may be based on how much an individual cares for James Corden, but Gleeson is hilarious as a very orderly man going to war with a CGI rabbit. A wrestling match between the two actually works very well, and the new McGregor’s introductory scene, where we see him at his job managing the toy department at Harrods, is a work of pure comedic gold. This McGregor isn’t necessarily the bad guy; he’s just the sort of guy who prefers order to comedic effect and can learn to be more flexible even as Peter learns not to be a jerk.
There’s some pretty good meta humor in here as well, but mostly this was a charming children’s film. Not the best I’ve ever seen, but still pretty good. Eight out of ten electrified hedgehogs.