When I was born, the first ever toy I owned was a musical Peter Rabbit doll. I still have it and it still plays music after all these years. In a way, that doll is a perfect metaphor for how Beatrix Potter’s stories are still as durable all those decades ago as they are now. I think what made these stories special was how the animals could have human traits, but still behave and think like animals. With Paddington proven that the heart of British children stories could still beat, it’s only natural to continue the momentum, so in a way it wasn’t surprising that a Beatrix Potter book would be adapted. There is one problem of course, If Paddington was the heartbeat, then Peter Rabbit is the cardiac arrest. I knew that they were going to modernise these characters, but never knew the extent the film would go to to make it so painfully obvious. I’d imagine that Beatrix Potter would have never wanted her characters presented this way.
With that being said, I must control myself, so I can tell you that there are two moments in the film where the animation is superb. The clarity of the story and emotion being told in those scenes are as clear as day for everyone and is done in a style that warms the heart. The best thing about these scenes? They’re not 3D animated. Now I have no quarrel with the 3D animated/live action approach, in fact it is quite well blended in the film, but those two moments where the film tells a story in the style of the Beatrix Potter illustrations is incredibly touching. It begs the question, if these moments were the most pleasing, why not do the whole film like this? The animation is beautiful, the story in the scene explaining Peter Rabbit’s parents is emotionally hard-hitting and is a way to connect with the original source material.
I suppose the lingering effect of the film is now that everytime I see my Peter Rabbit doll, I now hear James Corden’s voice. The Peter Rabbit shown in this adaptation isn’t Peter Rabbit, it’s just James Corden. Peter Rabbit is supposed to be mischievous and impulsive but has a good-hearted nature, in the film he’s just disrespectful and self-centred, seeing his triplet sister and the rest of the characters as though they are beneath him. It boggles my mind how anyone could have any kind of connection to him. Also, James Corden’s voice is not the voice you would expect Peter Rabbit to sound like, it too energetic, there’s no quaintness to it.
The film also had these elements where the narrator (Margot Robbie) tell us from time to time that in any other story this event would have happened, but this isn’t that story so this is what happened instead. What the hell does this achieve? I can only guess that the film is trying to be clever, but it has the complete opposite effect and shows that the writers clearly had no idea what to do after they finished telling the original Tale of Peter Rabbit in under twenty minutes. If you’re not going to take the story in that direction than don’t use it, don’t make any attempt to stitch it into the screenplay, have one direction and stick to it.
Peter Rabbit was clearly made for the younger generation and I’m contempt with the studio wanting the youngsters amongst us to at least be familiar with the characters, but there is one demographic that is completely forgotten about. The older generation, the grandmothers and/or grandfathers who sat their children and grandchildren down to tell them these stories, as their parents would have told it to them. These people have as much connection to Peter Rabbit & Co as anyone familiar with Beatrix Potter, maybe even more, so why are these people completely isolated? Furthermore, on the explanation side of the film, the audience has no need to figure out what these characters are like because it’s told by the characters themselves. This is the laziest, couldn’t care less way of writing characters and I got the impression that the film thinks it’s intended audience can’t think for themselves, it is massively insulting.
I’ve seen this done before, look at the amount of care that went into the adaptation of Dr. Seuss books and you can clearly tell that Peter Rabbit suffers from the same lack of respect. Sony Animation Studios seem motivated by the financial success rather than the critical success and thinks it can get away with it because they’re simple kids stories. No, Peter Rabbit is not a simple kid’s story, it’s a story where the morals will never break, a story that although isn’t told as often as it once was, we still remember. Dumbing the story down only brings to light how mature Beatrix Potter books were. I welcome the opportunity to modernise these classic stories, but once you lose what made them classic in the first place, the whole thing spirals out of control. If the people making this film had a single ounce of dignity, they would have treated the story and characters with the utmost respect.
Final Result: 1/10 – Dreadful
Have you seen Peter Rabbit? What did you think? Please let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.
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