Directed by Will Gluck
Screenplay by Will Gluck and Rob Lieber, based on “Peter Rabbit” by Beatrix Potter
Starring Rose Byrne, Domhnall Gleeson, Sam Neill, Daisy Ridley, Elizabeth Debicki, Margot Robbie, James Cordon
There is something to be said for the anti-hero archetype. As an audience, we know that their intentions are good, even if they need to push someone out of the way to achieve their objective. We relate to these characters because we inherently believe that we are better people; that we wouldn’t encounter the same trials or tribulations. Yet, when push comes to shove, we know deep down that we would do the same thing if we had to.
We just don’t think about it consciously.
Will Gluck’s latest film, “Peter Rabbit” is the epitome of the anti-hero. Featuring James Cordon in the titular role, Peter and his family live in the countryside, inhabiting a rabbit hole next to the McGregor estate and Bea (Rose Byrne), an artist-in-the-making. An ongoing feud between Peter and the elder McGregor over the McGregor’s bounteous garden results in misfortune, bringing the younger McGregor, Thomas (Domhnall Gleeson) in to the picture. The overworked and overwrought Thomas brings a new kind of mischief to Peter and his family.
The use of live-action background and 3D characters has been tried before with mixed results. Mr. Gluck expertly weaves the two together, making for a pleasing look throughout the film. The film feels a lot like a short take on the classic “Home Alone,” but there’s a more mature storyline as Peter realizes he is not the injured party, and that’s what makes him the perfect anti-hero. On the flipside, the script by Mr. Gluck and Rob Lieber pits one anti-hero against another in Mr. Gleeson’s Thomas. Thomas’ justification is preservation of his land and Bea is all that stands between sanity and total annihilation.
Fortunately, Peter has the benefit of having three angels on his side, in the form of his three sisters, Cottontail (voiced by Daisy Ridley), Flopsy (voiced by Margot Robbie) and Mopsy (voiced by Elizabeth Debicki). There is a lot on in-fighting between the siblings, but it serves a purpose as Peter works to solve their dilemma. Peter’s strongest ally is his cousin, Benjamin Bunny (voiced by Matt Lucas), who I shared an affinity for. He was the voice of reason amidst the chaos, even if no one wanted to listen to what he had to say, least of all Peter. The story works through the pettiness of their differences and Peter and Thomas try to one-up the other in their gamesmanship.
It leads to disaster, and inevitably a song and dance number, because it’s cute to see dancing, talking animals sashay across the screen. The biggest problem that the story encounters is the fact that there are two anti-heroes. They don’t necessarily cancel each other out, but their antics do. As with any children’s story, it inevitably leads to a reconciliation. As fun as it was to see Mr. Gleeson continue to explore his lighter comedic side, it came off as being a bit over-the-top. But, gosh, do I want to see more of it, just not as an anti-hero.
“Peter Rabbit,” based on the children’s series of books by Beatrix Potter is a fun romp. It’s a bit more mature than I was expecting, which I enjoyed. It should appeal to families, but a lot of it might go over the heads of younger children.
3 out of 4 stars.