While I’m somewhat familiar with the “Peter Rabbit” books, I don’t have much of a memory of what they were like. So, I didn’t walk into this movie knowing the, um, lore. As a result, I walked in with a pretty fresh mind and came out of the theater somewhat pleasantly surprised.
As the title suggests, the movie follows the titular character Peter Rabbit, voiced here by James Corden. A mischief maker, Peter often finds himself getting into trouble with the old Mr. McGregor. This usually happens when Peter steals veggies from McGregor’s garden, with help from his sisters and cousin.
The situation takes a turn, though, when the old McGregor dies. At first, it seems like a positive, as Peter doesn’t have to deal with the mean old man anymore. However, that dream is dashed when it turns out McGregor’s young relative received the rural cottage in the will and wants to sell the property for a high price. The relative, named Thomas (Domhnall Gleeson), instantly becomes infuriated with Peter and the two begin battle over who has control over the garden.
It becomes pretty apparent what formula “Peter Rabbit” is using fairly quickly. The strict businessman trying to make a deal while having to compete with the quirky wildlife. It’s not a really groundbreaking concept.
However, “Peter Rabbit” inserts some things to actually make things fun, charming and fresh. Most important is how they set up Peter and Thomas as more rivals in a competition, rather than a typical villain and hero type of story. Thomas isn’t just a one dimensional businessman and Peter isn’t the perfect protagonist.
That’s not to say these characters are immensely deep, but the movie does enough to have the conflict not seem as black and white. As a result, the audience gets to just enjoy a lighthearted story that isn’t bogged down by its concept being generic.
It was also a plus that the movie had its fair share of good comedy. The movie never went the route of some other kids movies these days, such as having typical gross out humor, nor did it try to shove in a ton of pop culture references that wouldn’t fit. For the most part it’s actually a lot of well-placed slapstick and self-aware humor.
With the latter, some examples include Peter pointing out his own character flaws and the characters realizing they’re in a ‘slow motion’ walk. Not all of the comedy lands, but when it does, it usually gets a laugh.
Most of the voice cast are also on point here, but a lot of credit has to go to Gleeson and Rose Byrne, who played McGregor’s neighbor. Those two were the ones with live action characters and neither phone it in. For much of the film they seem to be having a fun time with the movie and they’re pretty good here.
The animation featured for Peter Rabbit and the other animals was also pretty good. It was often convincing and never was really obvious that Gleeson and Byrne are interacting with a green screen.
So, “Peter Rabbit” isn’t really an instant classic type of family film. As previously stated the main story concept is rather formulaic and the comedy doesn’t always mix. There was also a musical sequence that didn’t seem very well placed. With that said, this one is fine to take the family to see on a weekend for a matinee. It has laughs and heart. 3.5 out of 5.