Peter Rabbit: Domhnall Gleeson is a riot but film falls short

Mopsy (Elizabeth Debicki), Flopsy (Margot Robbie), Benjamin, Bea (Rose Byrne), Peter Rabbit (James Corden) and Cottontail (Daisy Ridley) in Columbia Pictures' PETER RABBIT. Courtesy of Sony Pictures.

After so many author biopics in 2017, Peter Rabbit may seem like a breath of fresh air with bringing the children’s story to the big screen.  It’s been over a decade since 2006 saw the release of the Renee Zellweger-starring Miss Potter.  At the same time, there are so many comic gags in the film that it is over-bloated on that front.  Filmmakers are clearly targeting the kids more so than their parents when it comes to this film but it doesn’t appear to be a surprise with the two wide releases being released this weekend.

Directed by Easy A‘s Will Gluck from a screenplay co-written by Rob Lieber, the film combines the acting talents of Rose Byrne, Domhnall Gleeson, and Sam Neill and the voices of James Corden, Margot Robbie, Elizabeth Debicki, and Daisy Ridley as Peter, Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cotton-tail, respectively, to bring the Beatrix Potter creations to CGI life.  Robbie also doubles as the film’s narrator.

After the younger Thomas McGregor (Gleeson) loses out on a promotion at work, he learns that he has not only a great-uncle, Old Man McGregor (Neill), but that his great-uncle died and left a huge house in the country.  A subsequent breakdown at at Harrods later paves the way for so many more opportunities for Gleeson to have the chance at making a fool of himself–never more so when he crosses paths with none other than Peter Rabbit.  The duo go at it as they try to win over the heart of Bea (Byrne), a nice woman who looks after the rabbits as if they were her own.

In the war between Peter Rabbit and the younger McGregor, Peter learns of a blueberry allergy.  What does the rabbit do but use it to his advantage.  This is tantamount to bullying and honestly, filmmakers should have thought better before they wrote this into the film.  There’s nothing funny about bullying and there’s nothing funny about this scene.

There’s a London bit that comes late in the film and even at that, Paddington 2 already did this bit and did so better!

Byrne doesn’t have the same opportunity to shine from a comedic perspective as Gleeson, whose been in every film known to mankind to have been released over the last year.  This may be the true shame of the film.  It’s as if Byrne is acting as nothing more than a straight woman in a comedy duo and anyone who saw her in Bridesmaids knows how funny the actress can be.  Why not give her some more comedy to work with?  This isn’t to take away anything from Gleeson’s work because this guy needs to be cast in more comedies!

A bit player but Will Reichelt’s performance as the rooster surprised that the sun came up and lives to see another day adds a subtle layer of comic relief to the film.  If you’re a regular at iO Chicago, see this film and tell me it doesn’t remind you of Abby McEnany!  This performance would have had me fooled!

While it may be doubtful that Peter Rabbit will be the worst animated film released in 2018, it most definitely won’t be the worst film released during its opening weekend.  Beatrix Potter, however, will be rolling over in her grave should she ever see the film.  If you want a film starring an animal in a blue coat and a member of the Gleeson family, go see Paddington 2 instead.

(DISCLAIMER: I’ve been on painkillers all week after getting my wisdom teeth removed.)

Sony Pictures Animation will open Peter Rabbit in theaters on February 9, 2018.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.

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