What We’re Watching: Peter Rabbit

I had visions of going to see the new Peter Rabbit film in between a very holy Good Friday and a wholesome Easter Sunday – preferably wearing pastels – but in fact our Easter weekends are never nearly so picture perfect and in any event I am not that patient so we went to see it as soon as it was released at the cinema.

James Bloody Corden

Having seen the trailer possibly several hundred times and not being James Corden’s biggest fan, I had mixed feelings. I mean I love rabbits, and the film did look fun. But James Corden: meh. I loved Gavin & Stacey way back when, but have since found him insufferably cringey especially when you see him trying to ‘crack America’. Despite me being uncharacteristically uncharitable there, I can’t knock his hustle (as Jay-Z would say), and even if I did think while watching it that Martin Freeman would’ve been a better choice to voice Peter Rabbit; I did concede that Corden was probably a good enough ‘young’ voice to appeal to children and at least none of the voices were as annoying as the programme version of Peter Rabbit which cBeebies subjects us to every day in our house.

I Could Care Less

Talking of making the transatlantic leap, I was let down by the whole thing arse-kissing the across-the-pond market with unnecessary Americanisms littering the script: It’s one of my greatest bugbears and absolutely takes the piss. Fortunately for you I have forgotten any examples, but hopefully there’s at least one or two of you who are as pernickety as me when it comes to this kind of thing and will be similarly outraged when you watch the film.

Baddies Vs Goodies?

My four year old was really confused as to whether the young Mr McGregor was a good guy or a bad guy. We often talk about how the ideal outcome in a baddies v goodies scenario is for the baddies to have a change of heart and become goodies too, rather than be “killed, dead, with a laser zapper and bulldozed over flat as a pancake“. This film wasn’t so straightforward for little minds trying to find their moral compass.

Enter the notorious Peter Rabbit fruit allergy scene – which my son seemed to struggle to get his head around too. We don’t have any known food allergies in our family, so we weren’t made to feel personally uncomfortable by the rabbits attacking the landowner with blackberries which they knew he had a serious allergy to. I have to admit I laughed when I saw the headlines before the film’s release and chuckled at the idea of Mumsnetters going into meltdown over it but I have to say that the rabbits, having already believed that Peter Rabbit had killed off another human and rejoicing in it (I mean, we’ve all done it haven’t we, taken credit for someone’s fatal heart attack) fully intended to commit murder by anaphylactic shock.

Now, I’m no literary historian, but I don’t think that Beatrix Potter would have approved. I got the feeling in fact that it was written in to be deliberately precocious, as it wasn’t an essential plot device and could easily have been replaced with another military style tactic. I started wondering what was going through the filmmakers’ head full stop when they were making this film. Or if they knew much about, say, Peter Rabbit, or Beatrix Potter, or children.

Regardless of your family’s sensitivity (if you will) towards food allergies, it threw up that same question mark for my four year old about who were the bad guys and who were the good guys. Let that sink in for a minute: a Sony pictures film, OK’d by layers and layers of movie making professionals, lawyers, and I dunno – people with some common sense somewhere along the line – made a scene in a film so awkwardly unkind that even a child who is a proponent of ‘killing someone dead with a laser zapper and bulldozing them over as flat as a pancake‘ thought it was a moral bridge too far.

The Best Bits

As I sit down to write, and moving on from four whole paragraphs dedicated to murder plots in a children’s story, I can’t help thinking of all the other things I didn’t like about the film – I didn’t much like Rose Byrne in it, or many of the other humans, for example, or even the other animals (I did enjoy Sia as Mrs Tiggywinkle, actually). So I’ll try and focus on the good bits: the soundtrack was fun, the kids in the audience (including mine) were squealing with delight, and the CGI was top notch. It was exciting, and funny, and I did laugh along loads. It was a bit like doing shots; you enjoy it loads at the time and then when you cast your mind back the next day you begin to wonder wtf really you just experienced. A fun family film for Easter, and miles better than the programme.

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