British author Beatrix Potter could have had no idea back in 1902, when she published The Tale of Peter the Rabbit, that it would one day become a major motion picture with computer-generated graphics, a cutting-edge alternative rock soundtrack and a popular late-night TV show host as the star. And yet, as much as the new live action/CGI film Peter Rabbit takes some liberties with Potter's story, it retains the original's charm, delivering a movie that viewers of all ages can appreciate. The film opens area-wide on Friday.
A late-night TV show host, actor and comedian James Corden is perfectly cast as the voice of the furry fellow. The sarcastic Corden gives the silly rabbit some real personality. That much is apparent right from the film's start as we see Peter scurrying through Mr. McGregor's (Sam Neill) garden, ripping the old man's vegetables and tossing them to his pals waiting outside the garden.
The old man tries to whack Peter with a rake and then nearly captures him before falling dead of a heart attack. Peter and his sisters Flopsy (Margot Robbie), Mopsy (Elizabeth Debicki) and Cottontail (Daisy Ridley) celebrate by trashing the guy's place and throwing a no-holds-barred party.
The celebration, however, comes to a halt when McGregor's anally retentive relative Thomas (Domhnall Gleeson) moves into the place and kicks Peter and his pals out. He scrubs the place clean and instigates a war of sorts with the wild things — much to the chagrin of his beautiful neighbor Bea (Rose Byrne), an animal lover who looks after the rabbits and other creatures like she's some kind of modern-day James Herriot.
The plot trajectory here might be a predictable one — Thomas falls for Bea and then tries to trick her into thinking he loves rabbits even as he installs an electrical fence and buys some dynamite he can toss into their burrow — but the fast-talking Corden turns Peter into a flawed hero you can't help but love. Gleeson and Byrne have enough chemistry to make their relationship, topsy-turvy though it might be, believable and compelling too.