Director: Will Gluck
Cast: Rose Byrne, Domhnall Gleeson, Sam Neill, Daisy Ridley, Elizabeth Debicki, Margot Robbie, James Corden
Runtime: 1 hr 33 mins
Released By: Sony Pictures Releasing International
Official Website: http://www.peterrabbit-movie.com
Opening Day: 1 March 2018
Synopsis: Peter Rabbit, the mischievous and adventurous hero who has captivated generations of readers, now takes on the starring role of his own irreverent, contemporary comedy with attitude. In the film, Peter's feud with Mr. McGregor (Domhnall Gleeson) escalates to greater heights than ever before as they rival for the affections of the warm-hearted animal lover who lives next door (Rose Byrne). James Corden voices the character of Peter with playful spirit and wild charm, with Margot Robbie, Elizabeth Debicki, and Daisy Ridley performing the voice roles of the triplets, Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cottontail.
Just by looking at the original artwork of English writer Beatrix Potter’s children book The Tale of Peter Rabbit, you wouldn’t think the titular character is a mischievous and disobedient rabbit. On the contrary, you’ll think that he is docile, gentle, kind and polite. With the lovely hand drawn illustrations, Peter Rabbit could easily be a character from the world of Winnie the Pooh, another well loved talking animal living in a world set against pastel coloured backdrops.
Imagine our slight shock when Peter Rabbit was introduced as an animal who wears a shirt and no pants. It doesn’t stop there - you also get singing birds rudely interrupted by a rushing Peter Rabbit, as well as a human being who wants to blow up Peter Rabbit and his siblings for being a nuisance.
Not that we are complaining, because the 93 minute movie is sometimes clever, mostly funny and moves at a much appreciated brisk pace to satisfy everyone in the family.
Directed by Will Gluck (Annie) and based on the series of books created by Potter, the screenplay written by Gluck and Rob Lieber adds a modern touch (many movies based on classics are taking this approach now) and visualise the series of (mis)adventures Peter and his friends go through.
Essentially, the movie is about Peter Rabbit's ongoing dispute with the human ‘antagonists’. There is an old man who drops dead after being shell shocked by Peter Rabbit, as well as distant relative who is ambitiously obnoxious. Things change when a charming animal lover comes into the picture, but it seems like there is some sort of rivalry for the girl – will man or rabbit prevail?
Yes, this definitely doesn’t sound like a story based on children books (there is a death!), and we aren’t really sure whether the message will go down well with the young ones (there is rivalry between a man and an animal over a woman!) – but this is what you get when you have a movie marketed as an “irreverent, contemporary comedy with attitude”.
It’s not a bad thing though, because adults can also be entertained by the cynical jokes while kids go gaga over the cute animals. Thanks to technology, the CG animation is perfectly executed too. Of course, it helps that popular talk show host James Corden (The Emoji Movie) lends star power by headlining the production by voicing Peter Rabbit. His fellow voice actors include Margot Robbie (I, Tonya), Elizabeth Debicki (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2), Daisy Ridley (Murder on the Orient Express) and singer songwriter Sia.
Naturally, human actors leave a deeper impression. Domhnall Gleeson (Goodbye Christopher Robin) experiences great pain to play the man who gets tortured (physically and mentally) by the rabbit, while Rose Byrne (Bad Neighbours 2) plays the sweet female protagonist based on Potter’s real life character. After the hilarious cameo appearance in Thor: Ragnarok, Sam Neill is unrecognisable again as a grumpy old man.
Is this a comedy meant for suitable for family bonding over the weekend? Yes. But is it a heartwarming movie filled with positivity and encouraging messages? Parents will probably have to do some explaining.
(The visually appealing comedy features a very funny but sympathetic Domhnall Gleeson, and a cute but occasionally offensive CGI bunny voiced by James Corden)
Review by John Li