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dir Will Gluck
scr Rob Lieber, Will Gluck
prd Will Gluck, Zareh Nalbandian
with Domhnall Gleeson, Rose Byrne, Sam Neill, Marianne Jean-Baptiste
voices James Corden, Daisy Ridley, Margot Robbie, Elizabeth Debicki, Colin Moody, Sia, David Wenham, Rachel Ward, Bryan Brown
release US 9.Feb.18, UK 16.Mar.18
18/UK Columbia 1h35
Furry friends: Peter, Flopsy, Mopsy and Gleeson
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
Peppered with smart gags, this often manic mix of live-action and animation is silly enough to keep the audience both engaged and laughing. The filmmaker's key strategy seems to have been to make everything as cute as possible, from the adorable furry characters to the awkward humans. Never as sophisticated as Paddington, the film is still disarmingly ridiculous and often surprisingly bold in its sense of humour.
In an idyllic corner of the Lake District, Peter (Corden), his siblings Cotton-Tail, Flopsy and Mopsy (Ridley, Robbie and Debicki) and his cousin Benjamin (Moody) are constantly in trouble as they try to sneak into the vegetable patch fiercely guarded by Mr McGregor (Neill). When the old man dies, they think they've inherited paradise until his actual heir Thomas (Gleeson) arrives, equally annoyed by these invading vermin. Neighbour Bea (Byrne) tries to convince Thomas to see how sweet the bunnies are, but a war is brewing.
Refreshingly, the animators go for photo-realism, creating animals that look almost disarmingly authentic except for the tiny jackets that help us tell them apart. Scenes in which they interact with humans are a little dodgy, but otherwise the imagery looks terrific, with a wildly energetic tone that's thoroughly good-natured even when it gets a bit violent. And while the nonstop physical hijinks will keep the kids giggling, grown-ups have plenty of more subtly wordplay to elicit a knowing smile here and there.
The vocal cast skilfully brings the characters to life, punching every witty gag while playing merrily with a continuous stream of self-referential humour, some of which is clearly improvised. Meanwhile, Gleeson and Byrne do the heavy lifting in their slapstick roles as an obsessive nerd and a nature-loving painter, respectively. Their romance plays out in a gloriously absurd montage sequence that pokes fun at the genre while shamelessly charming the audience.
All of this plays out in a fantasy version of sunny rural England, with a couple of trips to postcard-perfect London along the way. A flock of birds keeps trying to sing energetic pop songs, interrupted by the chaotic playfulness of the rabbits, geese, foxes and hedgehogs. And aside from an early rabbit pie sequence, there's never a question that anyone in this movie is going to get hurt. The usual message about mutual respect may get lost in the shuffle, but perhaps the rooster's exuberance will help us all appreciate tomorrow's sunrise just a little more.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S|
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© 2018 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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