Monday, April 23, 2018

'Peter Rabbit' Is a Winsome Contemporary Update of the Beatrix Potter Classic

Peter Rabbit is about a group of rabbits – Peter (James Corden); his sisters Flopsy (Margot Robbie), Cottontail (Daisy Ridley), and Mopsy (Elizabeth Debicki); and their cousin Benjamin (Colin Moody) – who spend most of their days perpetually clashing with Mr. Joe McGregor (Sam Neil) and stealing vegetables from his garden.  When the old man suddenly dies of heart attack, Peter believes that he has triumphed.  However, the nephew, Thomas McGregor (Domhall Gleeson), soon moves in and proves to abhor rabbits as much as his late uncle.  Thus, a bitter feud erupts between the two, while they rival for the affections of Bea (Rose Byrne), the kind, amiable lady next door who is aspiring to become a painter.

Peter Rabbit is not just a movie adaptation of the classic children’s book Tales of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter (btw, I liked the 2006 biopic Miss Potter), but is more of a general reimagination of her so-called “23 Tales”, a series of illustrated children’s books featuring anthropomorphic woodland animals (of which Peter Rabbit is the most popular).  Notable characters and elements from the books show up in this movie in one form or another, and the character name “Bea” is an obvious reference to the books’ author.
Moreover, the movie updates its setting to a contemporary one.  Though this results to a somewhat commercialized tone, it doesn’t lose much of the sense of charm and whimsy that the books are known for.  Nevertheless, die-hard fans of the books won’t probably be pleased.

The plot is predictable.  But it is redeemed by being effortlessly amusing.  The humor is a mix of both clichéd and clever, but either way, it succeeds to be generally funny and self-aware.  In addition, the comedic narrative is only made further enjoyable by the likable performances of Gleeson and Byrne and the winning voice acting of its all-star voice cast.

Overall, Peter Rabbit is pretty good family entertainment.  Though not as delightful and meaningful as the Paddington movies, it does incite the same kind of cozy, warm, cheery feeling, albeit at a much lesser degree.

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