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REEL REVIEW - PETER RABBIT
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PETER RABBIT



Rating: PG

Genre: Comedy, Animation, Kids

Directed By: Will Gluck

Runtime: 95 Minutes

Cast: Voice of James Corden as Peter Rabbit; Domhnall Gleeson as Thomas McGregor; Sam Neill as Old Mr. McGregor and the voice of Tommy Brock; Rose Byrne as Bea and the voice of Jemima Puddle-Duck; Sia as the voice of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle; Colin Moody as the voice of Benjamin Bunny; Margot Robbie as the Narrator and the voice of Flopsy; Elizabeth Debicki as the voice of Mopsy; Daisy Ridley as the voice of Cotton-Tail; Christian Gazal as the voice of Felix D'eer; Ewen Leslie as the voice of Pigling Bland; Marianne Jean-Baptiste as Harrods' General Manager


MOVIE PREVIEW by Adam R. Holz - PluggedIn

"Look at him," Peter Rabbit seethes. "Pure evil. He even cuts grass angry." Peter, of course, is referring to his mortal enemy, old Mr. McGregor.

In in this case, mortal is no exaggeration. Sure, Peter's family has always had a hankering for the delectable veggies in Mr. McGregor's garden, veggies he and his family have never had a problem pilfering. Until one day, when Peter's beloved pops ends up on the receiving end of wicked old McGregor's spade. And then … in a pie.




"Look at him," Peter Rabbit seethes. "Pure evil. He even cuts grass angry." Peter, of course, is referring to his mortal enemy, old Mr. McGregor.

In in this case, mortal is no exaggeration. Sure, Peter's family has always had a hankering for the delectable veggies in Mr. McGregor's garden, veggies he and his family have never had a problem pilfering. Until one day, when Peter's beloved pops ends up on the receiving end of wicked old McGregor's spade. And then … in a pie.

Gulp.

Indeed, Mr. McGregor has it in for the entire Rabbit family, well dressed though they may be. And when McGregor grabs Peter by the ears sometime later, well, it looks like pie will be Peter's final fate too. But then, the old man … dies. Keels over. Drops dead of a heart attack. Kaput. No more veggies or rabbit pie for him. "He's in a better place now," someone opines solemnly. That's when the party starts.



Peter and all his animal friends—sisters Flopsy, Mopsy and Cotton-Tail; cousin Benjamin Bunny; Mr. Tod the fox; eloquent-but-gluttonous Pigling Bland; Felix D'eer; and many others—invade the suddenly guardian-free garden, and then the old man's house. It looks as if good fortune has finally smiled upon Peter and Co.: All the veggies they can eat and a fine, trashable estate to boot.

Until, that is, Mr. McGregor shows up. Not old Mr. McGregor. He is indeed dead and gone. (Carted off in an "ice cream truck with Christmas lights," Peter observes.) No, this is a younger version, Thomas McGregor, the curmudgeonly gardener's lone (and distant) heir. But he's not much of an improvement, attitude-wise, over the previous landlord. In fact, he might be more determined to purge his new estate's rabbits than his great uncle had been¬—if such a thing is possible.

Fortunately for Peter, he finds an unlikely ally in Bea, the pretty painter whose modest house sits a short stone's throw from the McGregor mansion. She's been painting the bunnies for years, and she finds them as delightful as Thomas does devilish.

But Thomas does find Bea pretty delightful, which might just be Peter Rabbit's salvation.



POSITIVE ELEMENTS

The vast majority of the plot revolves around Peter and Thomas' one-upmanship as they each try to outwit the other. It all has a Road Runner vs. Wile E. Coyote feel to it that's very cartoonish indeed.

Embedded within that story, however, are some surprisingly deep messages. We gradually learn that Peter and his sisters are all wading through deep grief and disorientation following the death of their father (as well as their mother, whom we hear has also passed away recently—though not because of Mr. McGregor). Peter has channeled his grief into devil-may-care recklessness, but he eventually recognizes how that response has been selfish and has even put others at risk. Bea, for her part, is a redemptive presence. Her influence helps soften Thomas' militant, anti-rabbit stance. In the end, both Peter and Thomas realize that they need to take responsibility for their selfish choices if they're going to salvage their relationship with Bea¬—something that's important to both of them.

Various critters put themselves in harm's way to help each other throughout the film. Thomas tells Bea that he enjoys working retail (the job he has at the outset) because, "I love helping other people get what they want."

SPIRITUAL CONTENT

As mentioned, there's a passing suggestion that Old Mr. McGregor might now be in heaven. (Though, given his surly and selfish demeanor, viewers might be tempted to argue against that politely sanguine assessment.)

Pigling Bland says to Peter, "All hail the prodigal son!" Someone uses the phrase "blessing in disguise." In London and on a train, we see a couple of Muslim women wearing that religion's traditional head coverings. Two people in the story are characterized as being "evil."

SEXUAL CONTENT

Bea wears some dresses with dipping necklines. Bea and Thomas kiss once but flirt quite a bit before that. Bea invites Thomas into her house late one night, but he awakens in his own bed, alone, the next morning, which seemingly nixes any suggestion that the couple spent the night together.

We hear various self-aware jokes about the fact that animals wear some clothing items, but not others. Peter is described by the Narrator as "a young rabbit in a blue coat with no pants." Later, Mr. Tod removes his coat during a raucous party, then yells, "Streaker!" and runs through the house. Someone makes a joke about being able to see a male bunny's "nipples." We see a man in his boxers (in a scene played for pants-fall-down humor).

VIOLENT CONTENT

As mentioned, a disturbing scene partially pictures Old Mr. McGregor raising a sharp-edged spade, then slamming it earthward behind a hedgerow. We don't see the impact, but we learn that it claimed the life of Peter Rabbit's father while the younger rabbit watched in horror. Likewise, Old Mr. MacGregor falls over dead after having a heart attack while chasing Peter in the garden. (Peter opines dismissively that he was simply the victim of "78 years of terrible lifestyle choices.")

Everywhere else, though, violent slapstick and pratfalls sport more of a Home Alone vibe. Peter scatters large traps (which resemble miniature bear traps with very sharp teeth) throughout Thomas' house, and the man ends up with several snapped shut on various body parts (including his backside, of course.) Shocking electricity shenanigans repeatedly send several people flying across rooms; a rabbit gets shocked, too. Thomas uses small sticks of dynamite to try to blow up the critters. He mostly fails, but one close call does hurl Peter through the air. A miscalculation with said dynamite results in a spectacularly destructive incident involving a large tree and a house. Thomas also steps on push brooms that, predictably, whap him repeatedly in the face, etc.

Thomas, who works in a British department store's toy section as the movie begins, gets angry and goes on a bit of a rampage, tossing down toys and destroying displays. (He's subsequently fired.)

Animals hurl vegetables at Thomas' crotch and blackberries down his throat. Thomas is dangerously allergic to the latter (which the animals know; they're trying to kill him), and he has to slam an EpiPin into his thigh to save himself. Even then, he passes out in the garden and doesn't awaken for hours.

Thomas traps a bunny in a bag and intends to chuck him to his doom in a river (which ultimately ends up not happening). Peter and Benjamin pursue Thomas into London, clinging precariously to various vehicles' exteriors along the way. A group of singing birds repeatedly gets knocked about (though not fatally) by various impacting objects. There's talk of Mr. Tod the fox trying to eat other animals. Peter says he'll just gnaw his foot off if he gets caught in a trap. Old Mr. McGregor has a trap snap shut on his beard; he also talks about making pie out of the animals he captures (and we do see him eating pie after Peter's father is killed).

One small rabbit repeatedly jokes about breaking ribs after big falls. An anxious hedgehog launches her sharp quills, which embed in several nearby animals. Peter gets his ears slammed in a truck's hood, and they come out looking (temporarily) crooked. A bird gets knocked out of the sky with a slingshot.

CRUDE OR PROFANE LANGUAGE

No profanity. Name-calling includes: "imbecile," "half-wit," "twit," "bumpkins," "morons," "idiot." Someone yells, "Get the heck out of here."

DRUG AND ALCOHOL CONTENT

None, technically. But the wild party that the animals throw once old Mr. McGregor kicks the bucket certainly evokes something like a fraternity party cliché. Animal House, you might say. Animals binge uncontrollably on all manner of food, with some essentially "passing out" in the same manner as happens when people drink too much. Children, of course, will likely miss this allusion, but it'll be plain to adults.

OTHER NEGATIVE ELEMENTS

It's true that old Mr. McGregor is a decidedly unpleasant human being. But Peter and his crew also sport something of an entitlement attitude when it comes to the lavish McGregor garden. They act as if it's their right to take what they want, when they want it. (And Bea seems to think that because they're just animals, they do indeed have that right.) Families who see this film might want to talk about this theme in particular afterward, as the movie doesn't really challenge it much.

Several rascally animals partially shave Mr. Tod, the fox, after the gluttonous canine stuffs himself to the point of unconsciousness. The next morning, he does something of a "walk of shame" and is embarassed by his punked appearance, another nod to party-culture clichés that adults will pick up on instantly. Also during that party, smaller animals are turned into "darts" and hurled at a target on a wall, where they "stick."

Near the outset of the film, Peter is tempted to put a carrot down the back of old Mr. McGregor's pants, where we see a cracking portion of his ample backside protruding. Elsewhere, an animal uses a straw to drink from a toilet. One rabbit sits on another's face, prompting the one who's sat upon to ask, "When's the last time you brushed your tail?" We hear a joke about flatulent elephants.

Thomas and Peter pretend to like each other in order to deceive Bea about their feelings of mutual hatred. Thomas flat-out lies to Bea at several points, though those deceptions eventually come to light and result in her being very angry at him.

CONCLUSION

Peter Rabbit is exactly what you'd expect¬¬—except for a few scenes that are actually more redemptive than the trailers suggest.

This modern reboot of a Beatrix Potter's beloved bunnies includes the requisite 21st-century elements: some attitude, some toilet humor, some mildly inappropriate jokes tossed in for parents—gags that'll likely sail right over the heads of the youngest viewers.

What I didn't expect, though, were some poignant moments about coping with genuine loss. At one point, Peter admits that all his bravado is largely a response to his parents' untimely deaths. "I should have been a better big brother," he earnestly apologizes to his three sisters. "The truth is, I'm a little lost without mom and dad. I miss them so much."

That's a nice sentiment in a reboot that more frequently trades the soft sentimentality of its famous source material for more frenetically modern storytelling trappings.