It seems that the childhoods of myself and all those who came before me is very in vogue at the moment. First it was Paddington Bear, Winnie the Pooh has had a look-in too, Willy Wonka is getting yet another go around, those bloody Trolls - and now, as it only seemed inevitable, Peter Rabbit has come thumping. As much as we want to pout and moan about ruining childhood favourites and classics, we must straighten up, take a deep breath and remember that it’s not about us, but the new generation being ushered through... who no longer know what a book is and must be spoon-fed everything on a screen. And when I say new generation, apparently that included my 26-year-old boyfriend who was sitting next to me laughing himself stupid the entire movie. I kid you not.
Peter Rabbit (voiced by James Corden, ‘Into the Woods’), his three sisters, cousin and the rest of the woodland creatures live happily, being adored and cared for by Bea (Rose Byrne, ‘Bad Neighbours’). Yet Peter can’t help but disrupt the peace and harmony by terrorising Old Mr McGregor (Sam Neill, ‘Hunt for the Wilderpeople’) by incessantly pinching the contents of his delicious vegetable garden. When a sudden heart attack befalls Mr McGregor, his long lost relative - the over-worked, over-wound Thomas McGregor (Domhnall Gleeson, ‘Goodbye Christopher Robin’) inherits the estate. Hoping to fix it up and sell it to open his own toy store, he soon finds himself in unfamiliar territory - the countryside, in a relationship with his new neighbour Bea, and with a rabbit problem... a Peter Rabbit problem. Thomas and the rest of Peter’s clan find themselves making fast enemies of one another for the land they each believe is rightfully theirs and the affections of the loving yet clueless Bea.
From the get-go, ‘Peter Rabbit’ is cheeky, funny and a non-stop whirlwind of fur, slap-stick and mayhem. I have a rabbit obsessed five-year-old niece, and the whole time I couldn't help but think that she is going to die with glee when she sees this. ‘Peter Rabbit’ is genuinely funny, with wall-to-wall humour for both young and old. But here’s where I saw problems; the rules of Peter’s world are never really laid out. We know he can speak, but can humans hear him? Understand him? Whenever one of these questions is answered, it eventually flip-flops to suit the story, which doesn't quite make sense.
It’s also incredibly violent for a children’s movie. If the film were completely animated, it would be a different story. Decades of watching ‘The Simpsons’ and ‘Itchy and Scratchy’ have taught me this - but here it’s half and half. There are genuine humans trying to kill animated rabbits with gardening tools, fists and explosives, and vice versa. And yes, Peter and his cohorts resort to using a known allergen in an attempt to best their enemy. While I wholeheartedly believe that all the mummy keyboard warriors who have sworn boycott on this film should shut the bloody hell up, it is a very real avenue to hurt somebody where dynamite and electricity could be viewed as too OTT to be taken seriously. Also, general looks-wise, it’s kinda bleak. I realise it’s set in the English countryside, but it’s also a storybook. Where’s the sunshine? Where’s the beautiful fields of wild flowers and butterflies? This was a small peeve of mine, but a peeve nonetheless. It’s these issues that far remove 21st century Peter Rabbit from his classic, charming Beatrix Potter days. This seems sad to someone like me, but in reality I suppose it’s a 21st century rabbit for a 21st century audience.
‘Peter Rabbit’ is genuinely funny... but it’s also incredibly violent for a children’s movie.
With a stellar and unexpected voice cast including Sia, Daisy Ridley, Elizabeth Debicki and Margot Robbie, there is a good time to be had here - but tread carefully. This is not the Peter Rabbit we know and love. This Peter is still cute and loveable yet unfamiliar... and perhaps not one for the super young.