Movie Review: “Peter Rabbit” Is A Wild Hare With Some Questionable Leaps

“...kids will enjoy the film even if the parents leave with mixed feelings about a new generation of stories which seem to prefer the liberties of entitlement to the actual reality that responsibility is what ultimately determines freedom and true ownership.”


 

Feature adaptation of Beatrix Potter’s classic tale of a rebellious rabbit trying to sneak into a farmer’s vegetable garden.

This film does for Beatrix Potter what “Shrek” does for the Brothers Grimm. It’s a silly mishmash of characters and plots all converging on one another and centering around the wildest hare of them all, Peter Rabbit.

The story of Peter Rabbit is basically a story of war for territory. Mr. McGregor has a beautiful garden and Peter Rabbit wants to eat everything in the garden. Even though Peter’s own father suffered a tragic death by rabbit pie, Peter still wears his father’s jacket and continues to carry on the legacy of stealing into the farmer’s little piece of land to eat all of his fresh vegetables. Poor Mr. McGregor however, is painted as being an evil villain who denies wildlife what is rightfully theirs: anything and everything in nature.

At first, the film is cute and cheeky, but almost immediately it bounces and hops around trying to maintain a reasonable plot with justifiable twists and turns. With a combination of live action and animation, the movie features the character of Beatrix herself (Rose Byrne) as a rabbit-rescuing painter and writer living right next door to the well-known, grumpy, old, hateful, trap-setting Mr. McGregor (Sam Neill). But then things turn almost a little creepy considering that these are Potter stories and not the Brothers Grimm.

Mr. McGregor is huffing and puffing when he finally catches Peter Rabbit in a rage and is all set for some rabbit stew….only to fall over dead of a heart attack….and Peter Rabbit pokes him in the eyeball. Squish!

It’s rather shocking for a kids’ animation and a weird way to transition the story so as to off the crotchety, unmarriageable old coot and bring in the handsome, though pretentious and uptight nephew, Thomas McGregor (Domhnall Gleeson). Of course, the antics of war continue while simultaneously a serious love relationship is developing between Bea and Thomas. Peter Rabbit and Thomas both are forced to face the disaster of loving the same woman and learning to trust one another even when both would rather do neither.

So, really, the point of the plot isn’t terribly awful, but how the writers get there is as awkward and bumpy and jarring as trying to catch a wild hare. The animation is cute, the music fun, but the personalities are a little too rebellious and the original author would undoubtedly be more than a little horrified at the character development in this version of the story.

Still, kids will enjoy the film even if the parents leave with mixed feelings about a new generation of stories which seem to prefer the liberties of entitlement to the actual reality that responsibility is what ultimately determines freedom and true ownership. Oh, wait…did that just sound like my grandparents? Ah, the old circle of life…what goes around comes around.

Fortunately, in the end, Peter and Thomas both learn to share their Bea and the garden. Better yet, the release of the film is the result of a partnership between Sony Pictures and an organization to support children’s literacy, Reading is Fundamental (RIF). So, enjoy the movie with your kids, but also, go to the library and check out the short, loveable books of Beatrix Potter.

In theaters Friday, February 9th


 

Jeanne Antoinette

Raised in the gypsy wanderings of two ex-Mennonites who dared to question traditional thought, Jeanne continues her family legacy - usually by asking [too] many questions and constantly exploring outside the box. She has lived in 11 states and has 11 college transcripts, which humorously combine to make her seem overqualified, but also minimally credentialed. She loves libraries, linguistics, singing, and of course, writing. Her passion, at its core, is about communication and connection through storytelling. Jeanne is currently practicing the art of "staying" in San Antonio, along with her two children.
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