It’s Easter time! Which, of course, means lots of chocolate and adorable bunnies. And who is more adorable (and mischievous) than Peter Rabbit?!
I adored the tales of Beatrix Potter growing up. I had VHS tapes of the 90’s TV series which I would watch often, and a big heavy book featuring all the stories along with the gorgeous illustrations. But in all honesty, Peter Rabbit and his friends haven’t crossed my mind in a while, which is a shame, but I’m so happy that something so traditional has recently regrown in popularity… and not only that, but the new movie has given the tale a modern spin!
The film is set in the same Lake District countryside that Beatrix Potter herself lived. Peter (James Corden), his cousin, Benjamin (Colin Moody) and Peter’s sisters Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail (Margot Robbie, Elizabeth Debicki and Daisy Ridley) all enjoy finding new ways to intrude on Old Man McGregor’s garden, just like Peter did in the original tale. What is different is that Old Man McGregor takes a major turn for the worse (as in, he finally kicks the bucket, if you get my drift), and leaves his estate to his nephew, Harrod’s salesman Mr McGregor (Domhnall Gleeson). Peter and gang are adored by McGregor’s kind, artistic neighbour, Bea (Rose Byrne), and when the new younger Mr McGregor threatens to come between them, Peter sets about trying to drive him out of the house!
The comedy elements in this movie are above and beyond. There are a tonne of jokes that edge on the verge of being child-appropriate, and Peter literally does launch an all out war on Mr McGregor in the most creative, humorous ways possible – although anyone who would try and harm cute bunnies kind of deserves it, right? There are a lot of slapstick moments that all keep within perfect comedic timing, and the actor’s performances are certainly well tailored to this kind of outrageously fun family comedy. Even pop star Sia makes an hilarious appearance as hedgehog Mrs Tiggy-Winkle! I also have to praise how seamless I thought the animation blended with the live action characters and setting – I was so engrossed in the action, I actually had to remind myself that they are CGI!
Me and my fiancé went to a later showing at the cinema and where sat amongst a majority of just adult viewers, all of whom laughed out loud thoroughly throughout the movie, including my fiancé who would’ve normally have picked an action adventure such as Tomb Raider over Peter, admitted it was a tonne more funnier than he expected, and really enjoyed the film in its entirety.
Putting all the jokes about the countryside, carrots and the animals themselves aside for a second, Peter Rabbit is full of wonderful moments that give this film it’s heartfelt warmth. Earlier on in the film, I even got a bit emotional at one particular scene (that was beautifully animated in the style of the original illustrations of the books) and despite the tone of the overall movie being far removed from what the real Beatrix Potter would’ve been accustomed to in the 19th century, the production does pay several homages to its source material.
There has been a lot of online debate amongst fans of the books as to whether the suitability of the movie’s new tone has been appropriate. Potter famously denied even Walt Disney the rights to produce an animated film based on her beloved characters due to not wanting them taken out of her control, not too dissimilar to Mary Poppins author P. L. Travers. However, this Sony production was actually approved of by her estate, the very people who knew her, which I think speaks a lot for itself without saying.
The truth of the matter is, as time moves on, so does the audience. Just look at media giants like The Walt Disney Company – Snow White, Walt’s original princess, is a far different kind of heroine in comparison to Moana, the company’s latest animated feature. They are both wonderful characters in their own right, and if it wasn’t for Snow, there wouldn’t be a Moana. But out of the two, today’s children are far more likely to enjoy and relate to the overall modern tone of Moana than 1937 Snow White – it’s just statistics, and though it can’t be said for everyone’s opinion, it’s just an overall majority. And this is exactly what has been necessary for this blue jacket wearing bunny – he is still the same Peter we grew up with, but he and his story have had to evolve. Some people just don’t like change, but changes are sometimes necessary for overall success. After all, there has been quite a few Peter Rabbit adaptations in the past, including the 90’s TV series – who wants to watch the same story all re-adapted over again, anyway?
Have you seen Peter Rabbit at the cinema? Let me know your thoughts on the comments!