“Peter Rabbit” might not be what Beatrix Potter had in mind when she wrote and illustrated her famous books on which this film is based, but I think she would be OK with its message to children: be good, but when you’re not, be contrite and seek to right your wrong.
The titular character, brilliantly voiced by James Corden, hasn’t changed at all since his literary birth. He’s still sneaking into old Mr. McGregor’s (Sam Neill) garden and snatching the yummy veggies growing there for himself and his gang. Cousin Benjamin Bunny (voiced by Colin Moody) and sisters Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cottontail (voiced by Margot Robbie, Elizabeth Debicki, and Daisy Ridley respectively) hang out in the tree overlooking the garden and give Peter the help he needs to gain maximum vegetables and minimum interaction with Mr. McGregor. When Peter’s antics trigger a heart attack and Mr. McGregor departs this world, Peter and his animal friends take over, not only the garden, but the house as well.
Enter young Thomas McGregor (Domhnall Gleeson), an exacting supervisor at Harrod’s toy store in London. Anything out of place drives him batty and as Mr. McGregor’s heir, he arrives to find the house and garden in complete disarray. He begins cleaning up only to suffer Peter’s mischievous pranks reminiscent of “Home Alone.”
Complaining to Bea (Rose Byrne), the aspiring painter who lives next door (who just happens to adore the bunnies), Thomas conspires to rid himself of the rabbit problem. Much to Peter’s horror, he realizes that Bea is actually falling for the dashing, young Mr. McGregor.The craziness that ensues will have the target audience of this film giggling hysterically.
Both the live-action and voice cast do a fine job bringing their characters to life, especially Corden. The CG is amazing, the animals seeming almost real and their interaction with actual people seamless. The film will definitely appeal to kids, while the adults who take them to the theater will have to suffer through the absurd silliness. This is, after all, Peter Rabbit we’re talking about.
Despite the general mayhem of the movie, it has a surprisingly relevant message at its heart: when you do wrong, be sorry, ask forgiveness, and work to right the wrong you’ve done. I won’t spoil the plot points that bring Peter to this realization only that I found it refreshing that such a beloved children’s character is shown taking responsibility for his own actions, accepting the consequences, and working to rectify the situation. If anything, the movie’s worth it just to see Peter and gang go through this journey.