No! No no no no nononononononono, NOOOOOOOO!!!
You have no idea how much energy it’s taking me to not curse in this review, but… ARGH!!!
Regardless of the details, if I were to imagine a Peter Rabbit film, this vomit-inducing cow-@#$% of a slapstick comedy is NOT what I wanted to see, nor should it be what anyone wants to see. The story of Peter Rabbit is an innocent tale about a young rabbit who disobeys his mother’s warnings, gets himself into trouble, and returns safely home, but worse for wear. How the @#$% do you make a feature-length film about that??
You might be wondering why I’m taking this movie’s release so personally. Here, let me show you.
This is my personal collection of Beatrix Potter’s timeless children’s stories. Eh, sort of. Technically, they’re my parents’ and they’re supposedly going to be for my children if I ever have any. But more importantly, these books, and those figurines have been there my entire life. Those figurines were in my nursery. These books were my bedtime stories as a toddler. I actually just recently found out by my parents that they’d had the books longer than they’ve had me. They apparently lugged them all across England.
Some clarification about this upcoming movie, I doubt my parents care about the movie, so my rage is probably far less justified. But on their behalf, I choose to be angry for them because, you know what, someone needs to be angry about this! Actually, I think a lot of people are angry about this, but count me as one of them. I mean, who read this tiny book and thought, “You know what this story is missing? Slapstick humor, childish college streaking jokes, a pointless romance for McGregor, and a pointless story arch of Peter being an indirect pet.” Because who gives a @#$% about being a good movie?!
The story- pfft! Yeah right. “Story.” That’s rich. It looks like it’s about Peter living the high life in the McGregor garden under the watchful eye of a caring neighbor woman. But then a young-looking McGregor comes home and takes effort in making sure that the animals stay out of his garden, and the animals retaliate. *sigh* So… SECRET LIFE OF PETS (2016), TOY STORY (1995), SHREK (2001)… maybe I’ll figure more out as I write.
Here’s the cast. Starring, we have James Corden (THE EMOJI MOVIE , INTO THE WOODS , BEGIN AGAIN , and upcoming films OCEAN’S 8  and SMALLFOOT ), Domhnall Gleeson (STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI , EX MACHINA , DREDD , HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 1 , and the upcoming THE LITTLE STRANGER ), and Rose Byrne (X-MEN: APOCALYPSE , NEIGHBORS , 28 WEEKS LATER , and the upcoming INSTANT FAMILY ). In support, we have Daisy Ridley (STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI and THE FORCE AWAKENS , MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS , and upcoming films OPHELIA  and CHAOS WALKING ), Margot Robbie (I, TONYA , THE LEGEND OF TARZAN , THE BIG SHORT , THE WOLF OF WALL STREET , and upcoming films MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS  and TERMINAL ), Elizabeth Debicki (THE CLOVERFIELD PARADOX , GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY 2 , EVEREST , and the upcoming film WIDOWS ), Sam Neill (THE COMMUTER , HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE , BICENTENNIAL MAN , JURASSIC PARK , and the upcoming RIDE LIKE A GIRL ), and singer Sia (MY LITTLE PONY: THE MOVIE ).
Now for the crew. Directing and co-writing is Will Gluck, known for ANNIE (2014) and FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS (2011). Gluck’s partner-in-pen is Rob Lieber, known for ALEXANDER AND THE TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY (2014), 1 episode of TV show THE GOLDBERGS (2013 – ongoing), and the upcoming GOOSEBUMPS: HORRORLAND (2018). The composer is Dominic Lewis, known for ROUGH NIGHT (2017), MONEY MONSTER (2016), and THE DUFF (2015). The cinematographer is Peter Menzies Jr., known for ALL EYEZ ON ME (2017), THE INCREDIBLE HULK (2008), LARA CROFT: TOMB RAIDER (2001), and the upcoming A DOG’S WAY HOME (2018). Finally, the co-editors are Christian Gazal (HAPPY FEET  and HAPPY FEET TWO ) and Jonathan Tappin (known for shorts, making his feature film debut; congrats, sir).
Here’s what I’m betting on. This is actually going to try and pass itself off as some kind of sequel to the book itself. Peter’s older, McGregor died and his son returns with a vengeance to keep the animals out. Gleeson isn’t going to be especially funny, nor will Corden for that matter. Ridley, Robbie, and Debicki will be glorified cameos at best, at worst will also not be funny. References… I’m expecting Mission: Impossible references and let’s just get random, Mad Max references too. Let’s just see if my shots in the dark get that accurate. Fully expecting poop jokes. The ending will result in Peter and young McGregor becoming friends, all because of this kindly next door neighbor. But not before they get caught fighting and she shuns both of them, or makes Peter out to be the straight-up victim. Ugh, on behalf of Beatrix Potter, I cringe and weep.
This is my honest opinion of: PETER RABBIT
Peter Rabbit (voiced by James Cordon) is a troublemaker alongside his sisters Flopsy (voiced by Margot Robbie), Mopsey (voiced by Elizabeth Debicki), Cotton-Tail (voiced by Daisy Ridley), and their cousin Benjamin Bunny (voiced by Colin Moody), by constantly trying to get into old-man McGregor’s (Sam Neill) garden. Despite his best efforts, however, the animals are cared for under the watchful eye of McGregor’s kindly neighbor, Bea (Rose Byrne). But one fateful day, Mr. McGregor suffers a heart-attack and dies. While the animals enjoy the garden and house to themselves, they don’t realize that the home has been handed down to McGregor’s great grand-nephew, Thomas McGregor (Domhnall Gleeson), an aspiring toy-store owner who was recently passed up for a promotion that he thought he earned, threw a tantrum, and subsequently got fired, deciding to fix up his great-uncle’s home and sell it to open his own toy store. But of course, Peter and his gang don’t like that he’s moved in and shows that he’s just as hostile toward them as his great-uncle was. But things get even more complicated when Bea meets Thomas and the two strike up a romantic relationship.
I have never been this angry with a movie in a long time. This is quite possibly an early contender for the worst movie of the year.
This movie got a few laughs out of me, but not for the reasons you’re thinking of. Nope, this movie wasn’t funny. Not a single joke worked. Completely devoid of smart or fun comedy. The laughs came from just how much of my predictions up top came true. “This is actually going to try and pass itself off as some kind of sequel to the book itself. Peter’s older, McGregor died and his son returns with a vengeance to keep the animals out.” I mostly got that right. The old man McGregor from the book is briefly featured in the beginning and dies, and it’s his great grand-nephew that takes over, though for different reasons than simply keeping the wildlife out. “Gleeson isn’t going to be especially funny, nor will Corden for that matter.” Spot on. No one was funny in this movie. “The ending will result in Peter and young McGregor becoming friends, all because of this kindly next door neighbor. But not before they get caught fighting and she shuns both of them, or makes Peter out to be the straight-up victim.” Bingo! Not all at once, though. It’s more like, in one scene, she shuns Peter, and shuns Thomas in another. Only needed to see one trailer and I had this movie pretty much pegged.
This movie got everything wrong about the book, and the book is so simplistic in the messages it’s trying to get across, it really shouldn’t have been hard to make this movie… passable. I mean, what’s the story of Peter Rabbit? Mom tells him not to go into McGregor’s garden. Peter doesn’t listen. He almost gets killed. He goes home without his jacket, sick, and goes to bed with soup, while his siblings get to eat a real meal. There are so many themes to choose from in this story. Always listen to your parents. Don’t steal. And that’s probably just scratching the surface for those that are smarter than me. The point is, this garbage heap doesn’t focus on any of them. Somehow, they took all those simple messages and decided to turn Peter Rabbit into a pointless romance tale slash tug-of-war for a woman’s affection. How is that possible?! But another thing to keep in mind about the book, Peter may be the protagonist of the story, but he’s not the good guy. He’s not the hero. He’s the naughty bunny who disobeys his mother, steals food, and by the end of the story, gets sick. Peter’s story is a cautionary tale. You can argue all day long that this movie does that, but do you honestly think that’s what kids are going to take away from the story? Are they going to see the actions of a selfish character who doesn’t listen to reason, resulting in a lesson needed to be learned? Like Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax and its 2012 cinematic counterpart, the book leaves the reader with questions to figure out on their own, rather than talking down to the kids by giving them a happy ending, which is less impactful and memorable, and leaves no room for critical thinking and interpretation. This falls into the same sinkholes. There’s nothing to figure out because it doesn’t leave viewers with questions.
If nothing else, the story of Peter Rabbit isn’t meant to be a comedy. At worst, it’s a light-hearted drama. At best, and if you really wanted to get gutsy, a horror story. I’m not even kidding. Think about it. Peter is a young rabbit in the garden of a hostile human intent on killing Peter and turning him into a pie, the very same fate that befell Peter’s father. Much of the story is basically Peter running for his life and hiding from McGregor. I’m not saying it needs to be anything like Eli Roth or James Wan would do, but maybe something like what Laika studios, the makers of CORALINE (2009) and PARANORMAN (2012), would make? At least something within that same vein. Lord knows they’d make a far better and more impressive animated flick than Sony Animation could. And it would likely show respect for Beatrix Potter’s original artwork better while making it its own.
Come to think of it, the story itself makes zero sense in its own right. As I previously said, Peter shouldn’t be portrayed as a hero. He’s the villain of the story. Okay, probably too strong a word, but… here’s what I mean. You have Peter stealing from Old McGregor. You have a neighbor who is protective of the animals. And you have young McGregor who just wants to sell the house his great uncle has in order to pursue his dreams. I don’t see where the conflict should be. First off, old McGregor has every right to try and keep the animals out of his garden, which I can’t imagine is easy to start, let alone maintain without the constant obstacle of pests mucking things up. It’s his work and his home. And when Thomas comes into the picture, literally all he wants to do is clean up the house and sell it. He sells it, he leaves. Where’s the conflict?! Chill out for a few weeks and munch on the garden’s veggies when he leaves. I’m on the side of the “bad guy” here! And here’s an idea for Bea. Instead, of letting the rabbits risk their lives by stealing from the McGregors, why doesn’t she feed the bunnies? Not with a garden of her own, necessarily, but go to town and pick up vegetables for them?
By the way. Bea? As in Beatrix? Subtle! To be fair, I wouldn’t mind seeing a biopic of Beatrix Potter starring Rose Byrne.
None of the other characters are faithful to the source material either, at least as far as Peter’s siblings are concerned. Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cotton-Tail are supposed to be the well-behaved bunnies who listened to their mother. If respect for the original source material was intended, then one would think that the sisters would be fighting Peter and trying to get him to be safer and make better choices. But no, they’re in on the troublemaking alongside Peter. These are not faithful representations of the characters. But fine, “purists can’t deal with change,” fair enough, I’ve said that about MAN OF STEEL (2013) and how I like the changes made to Superman’s character. But that’s the thing. The interpretation of Superman was to make him less of a boy scout and more of a real man with conflicting ideas and emotions. But the changes made to the sisters, they’re not compelling. They’re not funny. Their only joke is Flopsy saying “I’m the oldest” to Mopsy. Toward the end we get a little bit of Cotton-Tail being a ruthless psychotic fighter, but it’s literally only one bit rather than the extent of her character. And honestly, the voice acting is so indistinguishable that I forgot which sister was which most of the time and having different colored blouses didn’t help in the slightest.
There’s probably one gag in this movie that got a chuckle out of me. The hood of Thomas’ truck slams down on Peter’s ears and he’s in pain. More than anything, I likely laughed because I hated the character so much and watching him in physical pain brought me joy. Not like I was getting it anywhere else in this blasted heap of rabbit dung. Maybe I’m a purist. But I like to think that I’m open to different interpretations, but the interpretation has to be good. This wasn’t. There’s nothing to invest in. As an adaptation, it’s got little in common. As a stand-alone, it’s bottom of the barrel. Maybe it’s inoffensive to those not familiar with the story, but as someone who’s grown up with this story since toddlerhood, you can be sure this is an early entry for one of the worst movies of the year. You think Sony Animation knows him? Well, think again! Because they got everything wrong!
My honest rating for PETER RABBIT: 1/5