“Peter Rabbit” explores love and empathy through clever comedy

Photo by IMDB

Hope Schreiner

Based on the popular children’s book by Beatrix Potter, Peter Rabbit comes to the big screen in a film of the same name to stir up some mischief in old Mr. McGregor’s garden once again. However, after a fateful accident, Mcgregor passes away, leaving his great-nephew, Thomas McGregor to care for his estate.

The stylistic choices made when adapting this tale for film are contemporary and clever. While there are some references and concepts that kids may not grasp, “Peter Rabbit” is full of laughter and heartfelt moments for the whole family.

The film opens with a musical number sung by several birds, and then immediately and quite literally hits you in the face with comedy. Like many modern kid’s movies, there is plenty of humor for adults in this film and not all of it is exclusively crude or inappropriate. There are a couple of classic jokes such as the rake-to-the-face stunt and a lucky rabbit’s foot keychain, along with a party scene equivalent to a college frat pa r t y.

That being said, there were a few cringe-worthy moments and jokes that were strung out for a bit too long, to the point where they felt forced. While younger kids will still find it hilarious, it de-tracts from the overall quality of the film. However, one thing that will always be funny to kids and adults alike is other people’s physical pain, and this film has plenty of it.

Including such blatantly obvious violence felt like a bit too much for a children’s movie. There is no mistaking the fact that McGregor (young and old) and Peter are not simply trying to torment each other. They use multiple means to try to kill one another, such as electric fences and explosives. This is perhaps a bit too violent and morbid for a contemporary kid’s movie, even one rated PG.

Also, in the case of old McGregor, Peter tries to kill him with blackberries, to which he is allergic, forcing the old man to stab him-self with his EpiPen. This caused quite the uproar from many viewers. The unnecessary scene could have been avoided entirely and changed to something far less controversial.

Fans of the classic children’s book will get a ping of nostalgia at the few times the film smoothly transitions from live action to the old animated art style of the book. There is also a certain element of fairytale with Bea, the woman who looks out for the animals and stops McGregor from killing them. Bea has several Cinderella-like qualities, the most obvious being that she can speak to the wildlife. She is also kind, empathetic and puts the needs of others before her own.

Something that sets Bea apart from the typical children’s movie heroine is the fact that she does not compromise who she is for a man. It was a bold and interesting choice to have Bea stand up for herself and not give up her moral identity to please a man. Again, this would go right over a child’s head, but adults can appreciate the decision that was made.

It is also an interesting stylistic choice to have Peter Rabbit directly address his own character flaws. He is reckless, impulsive and can’t seem to take anything seriously, all of which put him into some dicey situations and tarnish his relationships with his friends and family.

While it took a while to get to the heart of this film, the characters grapple with familiar issues such as love, empathy and self-discovery. It is pretty easy to guess how the ending will turn out, but the journey there is entertaining and sincere.