Thursday, January 17, 2019

Movie Review: Peter Rabbit (2018)

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Genuine laughs and heart
Cons: Not a fan of slapstick
The Bottom Line:
Classic characters
Given new twist.  Some good laughs
But too much slap stick

Beatrix Potter Meets Home Alone

I must admit, Peter Rabbit wasn't high on my list of movies to watch.  While I have fond memories of the Beatrix Potter books, this movie didn't look like something I would enjoy.  However, when a group of friends decided to watch it, I discovered that there were some things I enjoyed more than I thought I would.

Life is almost perfect for Peter Rabbit (voiced by James Corden).  He is taking care of his triplet sisters and his cousin.  He's living life in the English countryside surrounded by many animal friends.  And he's made friends with Bea, a human (played by Rose Byrne).  Unfortunately, Old Mr. McGregor (Sam Neill) is still insistent that Peter and the rest of the animals stay out of his garden.  But when the old man drops dead of a heart attack one day, Peter and the rest think their lives are now perfect.

Unfortunately, the property passes to Thomas McGregor (Domhnall Gleeson), great-nephew of Old Mr. McGregor.  Thomas is just interested in quickly selling the property and moving back to London, but he is just as insistent that Peter and the rest stay out of his property.  Worse yet, he and Bea seem to be attracted to each other.  Will Peter ever gain access to the garden?

The preview really played up the fights that Thomas and Peter get into, and they are certainly a large part of the movie.  They are the over the top slapstick that are popular in many kids movies and are designed to make you laugh.  Here's a secret, however.  I don't find them that funny.  Instead, I'm cringing while everyone is laughing.  It's the main reason this movie wasn't high on my list of movies to see.  Having said that, there is a hand to hand fight between Thomas and Peter that is brilliantly funny.  Absurd, but funny.

When the movie came out, there was quite a bit of controversy because at one-point Peter uses Thomas's blackberry allergy to try to off him.  It is played for laughs, and those with allergies were upset.  Honestly, I don't see it as any different from electrocuting Thomas for laughs.  Neither are good things outside of the fake movie world.  And this is coming from someone with an allergy to tree nuts and many non-food things.

What did surprise me about the movie is the fact that I was laughing at it.  When it wasn't inflicting pain on Thomas, it provided some genuine laughs.  These come from the animals and their behavior as well as their take on humans.  The laughs were coming pretty steadily throughout the film, in fact.  I really did enjoy it more than I thought I would.

The story itself is fairly predictable.  There's nothing wrong with that if I am enjoying myself, and I found that I was.  The more serious and heart felt ending was definitely earned and quite good.

The cast all does a great job bringing their characters to life, whether they are playing humans, voicing animals, or doing both.  The animals are created with hyper-realistic animation, and they look fantastic.  Really, I am amazed by what they can do these days.

Fans of Beatrix Potter will find lots of little nods to enjoy.  Almost all the animals are characters from her various books.  It's been years since I read any of them, but I still recognized many of the names.  Bea is an artist whose modern paintings aren't that great, but her sketches of her animal friends look very much like the illustrations from the classic books.

So I'm glad I wound up watching Peter Rabbit.  Even though I didn't care for the brutal slapstick scenes, I still found myself laughing and smiling as I watched it.

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