Antic, manic and stuffed up to its ears with cuddly, realistically animated critters, sing-along pop hits and slapstick violence, there’s no reason every child at around age four would not adore the new “Peter Rabbit.”
And there’s little to no reason anybody over that age would get much out of it. Unless, of course, you’re an Anglophile and enjoy British wordplay, English country and London city locations. Adoring stars Rose Byrne and Domhnall Gleeson doesn’t hurt.
This “Rabbit,” which has almost nothing to do with Beatrix Potter’s mild-mannered imp, is a provincial punk whom we see trigger the heart attack that kills the hated neighbor (Sam Neill) who chases rabbits out of his garden. Gleeson plays Thomas, the old man’s officious OCD suffering Harrods manager heir, who moves in and faces renewed hostilities from Peter, his rabbit relatives and assorted woodland pal.
The joke of course is that the bunnies are doted on by Bea, the cute failing artist who lives next door. Thomas won’t get anywhere with Bea if she suspects there’s a blood feud a’bubbling just over the garden wall.
Co-writer/director Will Gluck, who has lurched from “Easy A” to “Annie” to this, borrows as much from the Aussie kiddie classic “Babe” as can be allowed by law.
“That’ll do, pig. That’ll do.”
The running gags include a Greek chorus of pop song singing birds, whose lip-sync repertoire ranges from the syrupy classics to hip hop, a dieting/gorging pig and cracked rooster (voiced by Will Reichelt) who procreates like crazy because he’s never considered that each day isn’t going to be his last.
“No WAY the sun comes up again! No way!”
Another running “gag?” Death. Peter’s parents died, one of them violently. And then there’s the hated old man Peter gave a heart attack to.
Corden’s breathless line-readings may be right for an animal known to be in a bloody hurry to get on with things, life being short and foxes being almost as fast as rabbits and all. He’s exhausting to listen to, and the script barely keeps his Peter just this side of insufferable — winking at the camera and such.
“Did he just wink? I didn’t know we could wink.”
The best line goes to a feed store clerk (Dave Lawson) who takes it upon himself to “diagnose” Miss Bea to new-in-town-Thomas.
“If I was a learned fellow,” he opines, “I’d say she ANTHROPOMORPHIZES them,” critters taking the place of human friends and love. Clever fellow, “learned” or not.
This all adds up to a movie whose net laughs exceed any annoyance Corden, the endless pop song action montages and frantic, “Ace Ventura” animal antics create. Feel free to sidle up to any four year old you know and give them a “Have I got a movie for you.”
MPAA Rating: PG for some rude humor and action
Cast: Rose Byrne, Domhnall Gleeson, Sam Neill, the voices of James Corden, Daisy Ridley, Margot Robbie
Credits:Directed by Will Gluck, script by Ro Lieer and Will Gluck, barely based on the Beatrix Potter books. A Sony/Columbia release.
Running time: 1:33