Peter Rabbit, rated PG
Starring James Corden, Domhnall Gleeson, Rose Byrne, Margot Robbie, Daisy Ridley, Sam Neill, Sia
Austin Family Critical Rating: 3 of 5 stars
Austin Family Family-Friendly Rating: 5 of 5 stars
Peter Rabbit is a charming live-action adaptation of Beatrix Potter’s children’s book The Tale of Peter Rabbit – although perhaps live-action isn’t entirely the right way to describe what director Will Gluck does with the animal characters in this movie. They’re digitally animated creations that, while not appearing exactly like “real” animals, are realistic enough to share the screen with the live action human characters. Gone are the days of Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988), where literal cartoons interacted with humans.
James Corden provides the voice of the titular rabbit, who stirs up trouble when a younger Mr. McGregor (Domhnall Gleeson) arrives and takes over the vegetable garden Peter inhabits. However, McGregor’s neighbor, Bea (Rose Byrne), loves animals – particularly rabbits – and if McGregor has any chance with Bea romantically, he’ll have to pretend to love Peter and his furry friends. Gluck, who directed Easy A (2010) and Annie (2014), gives us an all-star team of voice actors as Peter’s friends, including Margot Robbie, Daisy Ridley and Sia.
Without having read The Tale of Peter Rabbit since my childhood, I cannot honestly tell you whether or not Peter Rabbit is faithful to the spirit of Potter’s book. Gluck’s take certainly feels modern, in ways both good (there’s a fair amount of laughs) and not so good (the pop music, the non-stop action). Thankfully, this film doesn’t feel nearly as cynical as something like The Emoji Movie, and yet I still don’t feel entirely comfortable with studios taking wholesome children’s literary characters and making them into something else entirely. But if the trade-off is that a film like Peter Rabbit will lead kids to Potter’s work, then I’m OK with that.
All in all, I enjoyed my time watching Peter Rabbit, even as I was uncertain if what I was watching had anything to do with what I read all those years ago.
Also currently in cinemas is Clint Eastwood’s The 15:17 to Paris, a thrilling recreation of an attempted terrorist attack on a Paris train in 2015 starring the actual American heroes who stopped the attack.
Jack Kyser is a graduate of Austin High School and New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.