April 16, 2018  (Web Review)

Peter Rabbit

Sony, 93 min., PG, DVD: $30.99, Blu-ray/DVD Combo: $34.99, May 1

Reviewer rating: 2.5/4

The gentle, whimsical tales of Beatrix Potter’s beloved blue-jacketed bunny have been transformed into a hip hybrid live-action/digital-animation movie. Mischievous Peter (voiced by James Corden) habitually raids the vegetable patch that belongs to cranky Mr. McGregor (Sam Neill), accompanied by his neurotic cousin Benjamin (Colin Moody) and younger sisters Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cottontail (Margot Robbie, Elizabeth Debicki, and Daisy Ridley, respectively). One day after chasing Peter, elderly Mr. McGregor suffers a fatal heart attack, and the bucolic property goes to his fussy, fastidious great-nephew, Thomas McGregor (Domhnall Gleeson), an ambitious executive passed over for promotion at Harrods who plans to sell the farm and invest in his own toy store in London. Upgrading vegetable-patch security means not only evicting Peter and his family but also Pigling (Ewen Leslie) and the amiable hedgehog Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle (Sia). But plans change after Thomas meets lovely Bea (Rose Byrne), an artistic neighbor who has maternally befriended the reckless, rebellious rabbits who live together—without parental supervision—in a nearby burrow. Director Will Gluck’s Peter Rabbit is flippant and frantically paced, with the furry, photorealistic, anthropomorphic critters bouncing to pop tunes and enjoying silly slapstick humor. But a scene in which Peter and his friends deliberately pelt allergic McGregor with blackberries spurred an angry outcry from advocates and parents of children who suffer from food allergies, which resulted in Sony issuing an apology. A strong optional purchase. [Note: DVD/Blu-ray extras include a “Mischief in the Making” behind-the-scenes featurette (8 min.), a companion mini-movie (4 min.), and a “Shake Your Cotton-Tail” dance-along segment (3 min.). Exclusive to the Blu-ray release are bonus DVD and digital copies of the film. Bottom line: a decent extras package for an often entertaining but flawed family film.] (S. Granger)