In a modern-day take on Beatrix Potter’s beloved leporine tale of the same name, director Will Gluck has drummed up a warren of talent that would be the envy of any studio. James Cordon, Domhnall Gleeson, Margot Robbie, Daisy Ridley and Elizabeth Debicki, among others, all chip in to flesh out this story about a cheeky (and very cute) anthropomorphised rabbit and his battle for a vegetable patch.
Confident to a fault, Peter (Cordon) observes Old Mr McGregor’s (Sam Neill) vegetable patch with envious eyes until his rebellious nature gets the better of him. It doesn’t take long for the rascally rabbit to persuade his friends and siblings to join his march on foreign soil, but when Old Mr McGregor is replaced by the even more ruthless Thomas (Gleeson), the stakes are raised. Add a love interest to the mix (the very affable Rose Byrne) and you have a complex cocktail of romance, ownership, and vengeance which becomes as cute and charming as it is volatile.
There’s plenty of slapstick action to keep the young ones giggling (and some good gags for the oldies as well) but the carrots are planted rather shallow here and any semblance of plot-depth cough and splutter with mixed results. Quite charming in parts and yet annoyingly episodic, the film attempts addressing issues such as “ownership”—the vegetable patch providing the film with a weak allegory about “living together” and “sharing” to which recent contemporaries, such as the superb Paddington, handled with far more heart. Instead, Peter Rabbit becomes surprisingly spiteful in parts, to the point where you’re not too sure who you’re supposed to be rooting for and I suspect some of the young‘uns might find the film’s complex moral compass a little disorientating.
Peter Rabbit’s attempt to appeal to the widest possible audience is understandable when you consider the generational appeal of the source material. However, it can’t quite contain all it surveys and the result is a rollercoaster ride of good and bad, making the whole experience rather flat. Call me a vegetable patch fence-sitter but the dust is still settling on this one.
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See more of my NZME reviews here.