When I came out of an advance screening for Peter Rabbit I would have gladly paid to see it again right away.
The hybrid film (live-action/CGI) features a mostly CGI cast of animals interacting with human beings in the real world and it’s done so well that you buy in immediately.
The film opens birds singing something pretty – before being interrupted by Peter, who informs them that this is not that kind of tale.
Cut to Peter (voiced by James Corden); his sisters Flopsy (Margot Robbie), Mopsy (Elizabeth Debicki), and Cottontail (Daisy Ridley), and their cousin Benji (Colin Moody) about to pillage old Mr. McGregor’s (Sam Neill) garden.
Peter gets caught but is saved by McGregor dying of a heart attack.
To celebrate free access to the garden, Peter and his friends throw a big party – even inviting a fox that had tried to eat Peter earlier!
Meanwhile, in Harrod’s toy department, Thomas McGregor (Domhnall Gleason) – to whom I will refer as Young Mr. McGregor – is being informed by the store’s manager (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) that he didn’t get the promotion he was after (that went to the owner’s nephew) – and, by the way, your great-uncle passed away.
Which leads to Young Mr. McGregor arriving at his great-uncle’s home just in time to witness the carnage caused by Peter’s party.
A series of conflicts follows as Young Mr. McGregor tries to get rid of his garden pests while simultaneously falling in love with his neighbor, Bea (Rose Byrne) – who happens to be an artist who has never finished any of her serious pieces but has a host of watercolors based on the animals in the area.
Written and directed by Will Gluck (Easy A), Peter Rabbit is filled with plenty of slapstick gags that will amuse kids, and more thoughtful gags (frequently part of Peter’s voiceover, but also in the banter between Peter and his siblings and cousin).
An example of how delightful Peter Rabbit is, is a running gag with a rooster that hits the same notes in slightly different ways, making each time feel fresh.
Another is a small flock of birds whose efforts (except for a hysterical hip-hop piece) keep getting interrupted by Peter.
The film is beautiful to look at – cinematographer Peter Menzies Jr. does a lovely job of making his shots of the surrounding nature capture the feel of Beatrix Potter’s watercolors, but also knows precisely how to frame the slapstick sequences.
Peter Rabbit might be a bit intense for younger children (say, under 6), but it’s a G-rated marvel that works on enough levels that young and old alike will find something to entertain them.
Note: How odd is it that the two best films of 2018, so far, are G-rated, family films?
Final Grade: A+