A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Peter Rabbit is a live-action/animated movie based on Beatrix Potter's classic books and starring James Corden as the voice of Peter. It doesn't have the same mild, pastel-hued feel of the stories, though: There's lots of frenetic action, including perilous chases, attacks with weapons and traps, explosions, and even death. Old Mr. McGregor dies on-screen, and Peter's parents are said to be dead (his father was eaten in a pie). There are also threats, arguments, and temper tantrums, and at one point the animals attack their human enemy with blackberries, knowing he's allergic to them (he has a reaction and must treat himself with an EpiPen). The two main human characters (Rose Byrne and Domhnall Gleeson) fall in love and kiss once. Part of Old Mr. McGregor's buttocks is shown; Peter tries to poke a carrot in the crack. A rooster talks about "fertilizing all those eggs" and then tries to be a good father to a gaggle of baby chicks. Language is mild overall but includes insult words like "stupid," "idiot," and "imbecile." A couple of quick scenes include references to drinking and the implication that a character is high (the latter will likely go over kids' heads), and background characters smoke cigarettes. The main characters make lots of iffy decisions, and everyone behaves rather badly until an apology at the end that seems a bit too little, too late. But they do learn a few lessons about listening to others and the fact that there's enough love to go around for everyone.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In PETER RABBIT, Peter (voiced by James Corden) and his family -- sisters Flopsy (Margot Robbie), Mopsy (Elizabeth Debicki), and Cotton-Tail (Daisy Ridley) and cousin Benjamin (Colin Moody) -- are without parents thanks to mean Old Mr. McGregor (Sam Neill). So the young rabbits regularly break into his garden to steal vegetables. Then one day, Mr. McGregor dies suddenly, so all the local animals take over his house. But a distant nephew, Thomas McGregor (Domhnall Gleeson), gets word of his inheritance and, hoping to sell the farm and open a toy store in London, decides to check it out. He meets pretty, bunny-loving neighbor/artist, Bea (Rose Byrne), and is smitten. Determined not to let her know about his deep-seated anger issues, he puts on an easygoing facade -- all the while trying to get rid of the rabbits (permanently) without her knowing. Peter, in turn, wants Thomas to go away, so he plays all manner of vicious tricks on him. Eventually, the situation literally becomes explosive.
Is it any good?
Beatrix Potter's Peter Rabbit books were simple and charming, but this adaptation just tries too hard. It's frantically paced, but it still feels padded/stretched out with too many pop songs and too many dumb jokes. Peter Rabbit also has a surprising amount of death in it, and it gets tricky to figure out whom to root for, since almost everyone in the movie behaves pretty poorly. But Thomas gets the edge, since he's human, and Gleeson is able to bring a hint of sadness and loneliness to his role. Peter, on the other hand, has too much in common with the arrogant, yappy, hyperactive "E.B." in 2011's Hop. The filmmakers couldn't even seem to decide on one simple rule: whether humans could hear and understand the rabbits.
Peter Rabbit also attempts a kind of "meta-ness" (i.e., having characters occasionally address the camera and making wink-wink references to anthropomorphic animals, etc.) that isn't much funnier than the regular jokes. Overall, the humor isn't exactly vulgar, but it also isn't smart. And whenever the movie gets stuck, which is often, it throws in another pop song. The only time it comes close to evoking Potter's books is when it briefly digresses into what look like hand-drawn animated sequences inspired by Potter's original artwork. If only the filmmakers had realized what they were missing.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the action/violence in Peter Rabbit. Were you expecting all of the chases and explosions? Did they bother you? Was it upsetting to see or hear about characters dying?
How does this take on Peter compare with the character in the books? Which do you prefer, and why?
Did you notice any stereotypes in the movie? If so, is that OK?
What audience do you think the movie is most intended to appeal to? How can you tell?
- In theaters: February 9, 2018
- On DVD or streaming: May 1, 2018
- Cast: James Corden, Domhnall Gleeson, Rose Byrne
- Director: Will Gluck
- Studio: Sony Pictures Entertainment
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Book Characters, Wild Animals
- Run time: 89 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: some rude humor and action
- Last updated: July 16, 2020
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