“Look at him,” Peter Rabbit seethes. “Pure evil. He even cuts grass angry.” Peter, of course, is referring to his mortal enemy, old Mr McGregor.
Peter’s family has always had a hankering for the delectable veggies in Mr. McGregor’s garden, veggies he and his family have never had a problem pilfering. But the final straw came when one day, Peter’s beloved pops ends up on the receiving end of wicked old McGregor’s spade. And then…in a pie.
Indeed, Mr McGregor has it in for the entire Rabbit family, well dressed though they may be. And when McGregor grabs Peter by the ears sometime later, it looks like pie will be Peter’s final fate too. But then, the old man drops dead of a heart attack. No more veggies or rabbit pie for him.
That’s when the party starts.
Peter and all his animal friends—sisters Flopsy, Mopsy and Cotton-Tail; cousin Benjamin Bunny; Mr Tod the fox; eloquent-but-gluttonous Pigling Bland; Felix D’eer; and many others—invade the suddenly guardian-free garden, and then the old man’s house. It looks as if good fortune has finally smiled upon Peter and company: All the veggies they can eat and a fine estate to boot.
Until, that is, the younger version of Mr McGregor shows up, or Thomas McGregor, the gardener’s lone (and distant) heir. But he’s not much of an improvement, attitude-wise, over the previous landlord. In fact, he might be more determined to purge his new estate’s rabbits than his great uncle had been.
Fortunately for Peter, he finds an unlikely ally in Bea, the pretty painter whose modest house sits a short stone’s throw from the McGregor mansion. She’s been painting the bunnies for years, and she finds them delightful.
Thomas also finds Bea pretty delightful, which might just be Peter Rabbit’s salvation.
The vast majority of the plot revolves around Peter and Thomas’ one-upmanship as they each try to outwit the other.
Embedded within that story are some surprisingly deep messages. We gradually learn of Peter and his sisters’ deep grief and disorientation following the death of their father (as well as their mother, whom we hear has also passed away recently). Peter channels his grief into recklessness, but he eventually recognises how that response has been selfish and has even put others at risk.
Bea, on the other hand, is a redemptive presence. Her influence helps soften Thomas’ militant anti-rabbit stance. In the end, both Peter and Thomas realise that they need to take responsibility for their selfish choices if they’re going to salvage their relationship with Bea—something both of them want.
As mentioned, a disturbing scene partially pictures Old Mr McGregor raising a sharp-edged spade, then slamming it earthward behind a hedgerow. We don’t see the impact, but we learn that it claimed the life of Peter Rabbit’s father while the younger rabbit watched in horror. Likewise, Old Mr MacGregor falls over dead after having a heart attack while chasing Peter in the garden.
OTHER NEGATIVE ELEMENTS
It’s true that old Mr McGregor is a decidedly unpleasant human being. But Peter and his crew also sport something of an entitlement attitude when it comes to the lavish McGregor garden. They act as if it’s their right to take what they want, when they want it. Families who see this film might want to talk about this theme in particular afterward, as the movie doesn’t really challenge it much.
Thomas and Peter also pretend to like each other in order to deceive Bea about their feelings of mutual hatred. Thomas explicitly lies to Bea at several points, though those deceptions eventually come to light and result in her being very angry at him.
Peter Rabbit is exactly what you’d expect—except for a few scenes that are actually more redemptive than the trailers suggest.
This modern reboot of a Beatrix Potter’s beloved bunnies includes the requisite 21st-century elements: some attitude, some toilet humor, some mildly inappropriate jokes tossed in for parents—gags that’ll likely sail right over the heads of the youngest viewers.
However, there were some surprisingly poignant moments about coping with loss. At one point, Peter admits that all his bravado is largely a response to his parents’ untimely deaths. “I should have been a better big brother,” he earnestly apologises to his three sisters. “The truth is, I’m a little lost without mom and dad. I miss them so much.”
“These reviews are meant to help parents determine whether a movie is appropriate for their children, and are not an endorsement by Focus on the Family Singapore.
This review was adapted from Plugged In: the entertainment guide your family needs to make family appropriate decisions through movie reviews, book reviews, TV reviews, and more.”