Film: “Peter Rabbit”; Director: Will Gluck; Cast: Domhall Gleeson, Rose Byrne; Rating: **
It was 29 years ago that the idea of yoking an animation version of a rabbit with live characters was tried with handsome results in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”.
It is rather significant that Peter Rabbit, an uneasy successor to Roger Rabbit, is so taken up with the idea of being ‘cool’ on camera that he often forgets to be himself. The rabbit is so bogged down by the efforts to outdo his enemies that he ends up enjoying the inchoate vendetta plan more than we do.
Throughout the mildly engaging yet distinctly dull and uninspired film a sense of selfconscious sweetness is instilled with the firmness of a clown at a kiddies’ birthday party whom no one is particularly interested in watching doing his antics.
The sweeter Peter Rabbbit (speaking with flippant authority in the voice of James Corden) and his pals, cousin Benjamin and three sisters, attempt to be in the quest for the Perfect Summer Family Entertainment, the more cloyingly annoying the proceedings get.
The arrival in the verdant countryside of Thomas (Domhnall Gleeson) to claim his uncle’s property and mansion, sets off a chain of ownership skirmishes between Thomas and the rabbit inhabitants who think they own the property where they have blissfully trespassed.
Not only Thomas uncle’s property but also Thomas’s future beloved Bea (Rose Byrne) who adores rabbits, spends time befriending, nurturing and painting them.
Awwwwww! Before we all perish of congenital diabetes, the film decides to get aggressive and violent piling on gunshots and explosives in the tussle. The episodes where the rabbits take on Thomas headlong, are so violent, they made me wonder how much of this will be okayed for viewing by the parents of children whom this rabbit-hole trivia is aimed at.
There are no truly inspired moments in “Peter Rabbit”. We never get a chance to cheer Peter and his pals’ prankish wickedness as it gets progressively dark and violent. However, some of the Rabbit family’s outrage as Bea gets close to the Londoner (who has just been sacked from his sales assistant’s job at Harrods) is recorded with a winking warmth.
Clearly, these rabbits won’t have the tall cranky stranger sweeping sweet Bea off her feet. They will do anything to prevent it. While Bea remains supremely impervious to the game of one-upmanship played out between her beau and her rabbit friends, the ongoing battle set off at a war-like pace with no respite for a graceful merger of the human and animation characters.
“Peter Rabbit” is strictly a one-view timepass view with a few smile-a-while moments but nothing to laugh out loud about.
Very honestly our own Blackmail being released this week is far more wacky and liberated from the responsibilities of providing wholesome laughter. “Peter Rabbit” is so conscious of providing proper amusement that it forgets to let go and enjoy the chaotic confection that it so generously welcomes.