It’s possible that I am the only professional film critic who is an educator for the House Rabbit Society. So it’s no surprise that I was looking forward to this film.
When it comes to “The Tale of Peter Rabbit” and other Beatrix Potter stories, I can’t recommend them highly enough. I love their gentle whimsy and delicate illustrations that have charmed millions of children and many generations throughout the years.
But I have some concerns about the raucous, shrill movie “Peter Rabbit."
The story begins with Peter (voiced by James Corden) once again getting into the garden of Mr. McGregor (Sam Neill). After McGregor dies, the rabbits, including Peter’s siblings Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail (voiced by Margot Robbie, Elizabeth Debicki and Daisy Ridley,) along with other animals, celebrate. They move into the house and party in a frenzy of CGI animation.
Meanwhile, McGregor’s nephew Thomas (Domhnall Gleeson) inherits the farm and prepares to sell it.
He thinks the rabbits are vermin. But they are adorable in the eyes of his neighbor Bea (Rose Byrne, whose character was named in honor of Peter’s creator — like the real Potter did, she creates illustrations of her animal friends.)
After Peter becomes jealous of the attention Thomas gets from Rose, contention transitions into out-and-out warfare that involves a surprising amount of violence and even explosives.
The Animal Logic group makes the rabbits look authentic and cute, especially when they are scampering about or doing anything else that real rabbits do.
This is where my concern comes in. I share my home with a rabbit who once lived at the Quad-City Animal Welfare Center in Milan, where it was love at first sight (bite, actually, because he immediately nibbled on my shoe when we met).
I’m afraid this movie will lead parents and grandparents to believe that rabbits are good “starter pets” for children, who are sure to want a rabbit after they see the film. Then, when families tire of the animals, the rabbits will end up in shelters … or worse.
I was horrified to see rabbits lifted by the ears and thrown about in this film — indeed, I was horrified to see how brutally the Thomas character is treated at times. There’s a difference between cartoonish and mean-spirited violence, and this falls into the latter category.
There are some truly comical moments, though, including a deer that reacts to headlights in the manner you’d expect.
As for the movie, it’s entertaining enough. But you’d do better to visit “Paddington 2” for a smarter, more heartfelt story about a furry creature and his friends.
And please visit the House Rabbit Society at www.rabbit.org to make an informed decision before you add a rabbit to your household.