Peter Rabbit: A family comedy that will spawn many sequels

Review: Even the controversial 'allergy bullying' scene doesn’t feel out of place in this slapstick film

Peter Rabbit
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Director: Will Gluck
Cert: G
Genre: Family
Starring: Starring Rose Byrne, Domhnall Gleeson, Sam Neill, Daisy Ridley, Elizabeth Debicki, Margot Robbie, James Corden, Sia
Running Time: 1 hr 34 mins

Remember Blackberrygate. No? Last month, Sony Pictures felt obliged to apologise – to everybody – for a scene in Peter Rabbit in which the eponymous cottontail pelts his human love rival – we'll come back to this – with blackberries.

Thing is, Tom McGregor, the human character essayed with no little spirit by Domhnall Gleeson – is allergic to blackberries. Wilder animals, including Peter, are hoping to colonise his garden, and thus send a blackberry flying into his mouth.

This ought not to have raised an eyebrow in a movie that owes as much to Home Alone as it does to Beatrix Potter's best-known creation. But for some reason, allergy-related bullying was a bridge too far for many.

To these folks we say: that is literally the point of the movie. Yes, it’s awful to see McGregor struggle with an Epipen and anaphylaxis, but it’s no less life-threatening than the many cartoonish electrocutions he faces over the course of the film. Not to mention the dynamite, the explosions, the falling.


One sick lagomorph

Until he learns lessons and becomes a kinder, gentler bunny, Peter Rabbit is supposed to be one sick lagomorph. He's voiced by James Cordon at his most forceful. He nurses a weird post-Bee Movie interspecies crush on a human. He bullies his best pal Benjamin.

Having seen off the mean-spirited elder McGregor (Neill), Peter and his woodland chums have already appropriated the late farmer’s estate for apocalyptic house parties when the younger, highly strung McGregor (Gleeson) arrives. This new arrival, who suffered a kind of breakdown when he was passed over for promotion in Harrods, loathes the country and is keen to return to London.

Peter is already set on hounding the usurper when McGregor’s blossoming romance with his kindly artist neighbour Bea (Rose Byrne) inspires the titular mammal to double-down.

Comic sadism

Cordon's Peter doesn't bear too much resemblance to Potter's gently naughty creation, but while there are shades of the dreaded Alvin and the Chipmunks about this enterprise, director Will Gluck (Easy A) has a flair for slapstick and comic sadism.

Sony's careful negotiations with the Potter estate – who have previously turned down Disney – ensure we are spared the Alvin's quadrilogy's obsession with flatulence and, lest we forget, coprophagia.

Gleeson and his committed stunt doubles fall down stairs impressively and often. The voice cast for the animated animals (Robbie, Ridley et al) is absurdly starry and game. Expect many, many sequels to this solid family comedy.

Tara Brady

Tara Brady

Tara Brady, a contributor to The Irish Times, is a writer and film critic