Courtesy of Sony Pictures
I’m not sure that when Beatrix Potter conceived one of her most iconic literary characters, that she imagined it would one day be turned into a live action CGI-hybrid. Consequently, it was only a matter of time before it was destined to happen. The furry critter by the name of Peter Rabbit (charmingly voiced by the always bankable James Corden) has been given the big screen treatment, and with it comes a “Looney Tunes” hybrid kind of energy, that breezes for the film’s jolt of 90 minutes. As far as movies for the young tykes go, you could do a lot worse.
Will Gluck’s movie (which might have been more suitable for an Easter release date) brings our titular garden thieving rabbit into the 21st century, and, more or less, detours him into a slightly different approach than Potter may have envisioned. As the film opens, Peter is extremely hyper caffeinated and approaching Old Mr. McGregor’s (Sam Neill) patch of fresh vegetable goodness. But it’s not just Peter, there’s also his family and other favorites: Flopsy (Margot Robbie), Mopsy (Elizabeth Debicki) and Cotton-Tail (Daisy Ridley) - all of which are totally unrecognizable in their voice work, you’d have to look at the end credits to believe it. They’re also adorable to boot, with visual effects artist working overtime to make their fur and eyes pop with a certain razzle dazzle.
Of course, mother natures instruments and creatures don’t sit well with Mr. McGregor, he often sets dangerous traps to thwart their schemes, and if not for their loving next door neighbor Bea (Rose Byrne delivering a sweet and nurturing performance) they might not have made it as long as they have. The balance of powers change once a long lost great nephew of Mr. McGregor, Jeremy Fisher (Domhnall Gleeson totally letting himself go in the best way) steps into the picture to oversee the estate. Providing a new feud for the wily Peter and his squad of animals.
What transpires will best resemble a reel of “Tom and Jerry's” greatest hits. The second half of “Peter Rabbit” becomes a battle royal in that same vein between Jeremy and Peter, which results in some clever bickering and inventive tactics to make each others life havoc. All the while Jeremy is trying to swoon over Bea next door, but the animals aren’t having any of it. Does this get a bit tiresome and wear you out by the end? A little. The frantic pacing sometimes slaps you in the face relentlessly. But Corden has that wise-guy-know-it-all-popular-dude persona that suits the confidence of this character perfectly and you can tell that Gleeson is having a blast, not phoning his performance for an easy paycheck.
The best part about “Peter Rabbit” is that it has the perfect balance for adults and children. The kiddos will likely chuckle uncontrollably at some of the sight gags, while parents will get a kick out of the running jokes that might just miss the younger ones. It’s worth the trip, even if you’ll have to tell the kids to stop hopping around after they leave the theater. B+