Something we lack in today’s movie world is live atcion family movies. We have plenty of brilliant animated films aimed at kids, you can argue we are in a boom period for that industry, but that has caused the live action market to suffer. That is unless you count the likes of Monster Trucks and Nine Lives as classic kids films. But it does seem like something might be about to get going again. The two Paddington movies are fantastic and if we know anything about Hollywood, they do like to hop on a potentially successful trend when they see one. And that’s where Peter Rabbit comes from but is it any good?
Peter Rabbit (James Corden, Into the Woods) lives a mischevious life as he steals fruit and vegtables from McGregor’s (Sam Neill, Hunt for the Wilderpeople) garden. But when McGregor dies, his grand-nephew Thomas (Domhnall Gleeson, Ex Machina) moves into his house. And it turns out he has an even bigger hatred of rabbits and looks to make sure Peter can never get into his garden again.
The thing that really made the Paddington movies special was the amount of charm they had. They had so much that they had to sell some as merchandise. Unfortunately that’s something that Peter Rabbit lacks. Maybe it could buy some from Paddington. I’m not entirely sure why that is, charm is a hard thing to put your finger on and it’s very difficult to put in a movie. I’m sure any film maker determined to make their film charming will do anything but that. But this movie lacks that thing which takes so many other children movies to that other level. Maybe it’s because the characters aren’t the most in-depth or because Peter as a character is far more mischievious that Paddington was but it is already a step down because of that.
My best suggestion is the humour goes very low at times. Paddington is not the most advanced sort of humour in the world but it follows a comic sensibility that is enjoyable for everyone. Peter Rabbit does a lot of that as well and they are often their best scenes but it does also shoot low at many points. One of the first big comic moments is when McGregor is bending over and his jeans just slip down enough to see the top of his bum. This would already be bad enough but Peter decides that he should put his carrot in his bum. That’s not a euphemism thankfully. Luckily the movie does not go through the penetration of a man’s bottom but this is the sort of humour the movie does regularly which does bring it down a level.
I mention in that last paragraph that many of the best scenes are when Peter Rabbit follows rather simple comic sensibilities. That’s not meant to be a back handed compliment because this movie is actually pretty funny. Yes it does resort to some pretty rubbish comedy at times but when it doesn’t, it is actually quite funny. There are very good set pieces which do work in getting a laugh. As you’ll have seen in the trailers, there is a scene where Peter’s friend Benjamin (Colin Moody, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader) evades Thomas in set of three flower pots like the classic game. It’s a simple bit and one I’ve seen a million times before but I can’t say it didn’t get a chuckle out of me. There’s also a great bit where a rooster is shocked by the rise of the sun. But they don’t repeat the joke, it develops throughout the movie into its own little story.
And you know something? James Corden is pretty good in this. I know we are meant to hate him because he is successful and tells broad jokes which appeal to a mass audience but the man is actually talented. You don’t go from a supporting part in a BBC3 comedy to a USA late night talk show host without having something about you. And for what the character of Peter is in this movie, Corden is perfect. He plays every line with a wink and the idea that the whole world is a playground just for him. In this movie, Peter does some pretty terrible things, I counted at least two attempted murders, but it is Corden’s voice work which at least makes him likable throughout all that.
It’s just a lively movie that may not be the best in the world but achieves the task of entertaining children. I know some will hate the fact the Peter Rabbit books have been turned into something that is so 21st century but things have to be updated and this isn’t the worst way to do it. All the characters are very broad and have their own bit so they can entertain people, the rabbit triplets argue about whose the eldest and as I’ve said earlier there are all of these little stories that are happening behind the one we are watching which are going to get a laugh out of kids for definite. It is certainly hyperactive as a movie, you’d think Peter Rabbit is a Duracell Bunny at times, but not in a way that it’s unbearable. It’s great for kids to say the least.
Many said that Peter Rabbit might end up being on the same level on The Emoji Movie. These claims were massively unfounded. This is not a perfect movie and it gets no way close to Paddington, the movie it is definitely trying to ape. But in its own right it’s pretty fun. The characters are bright and colourful, the humour mostly hits and it will keep the kids quiet for a while which is a feat in itself. Don’t go in expecting comedy perfection but something moderately funny but aimed more at children and you’ll have a good time.