‘Peter Rabbit’: Update of Beatrix Potter’s classic is hilarious, whimsical

CLEVELAND, Ohio – I love “Peter Rabbit.” Growing up, I was enchanted by Beatrix Potter’s delightful and mischievous jacket-wearing bunnies. I loved to read about the adventures of Peter in Mr. McGregor’s garden, and of Mopsy, Flopsy and Cottontail and Benjamin Bunny. I even had the china plate and mug.

So I was a bit dismayed when I saw there was a new live-action, contemporary “Peter Rabbit” movie. Especially when I saw the trailer and it looked more like rock-em-sock-em rabbits that Potter’s gentle bunnies.

I shouldn’t have worried. “Peter Rabbit” is a charming children’s film that captures the magic and whimsy of Potter’s books while transporting those well-dressed rabbits to modern England. Director Will Gluck (the “Annie” remake) has made a movie that both children new to Peter Rabbit and parents and grandparents who grew up with the crew will find enchanting and fresh. And, very very funny. Gluck has stayed true to Peter Rabbit’s heart, but added quite a bit of humor.

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He’s done so with a top-notch cast that includes Domhnall Gleeson (“Goodbye Christopher Robin) as the young McGregor, nephew of Peter’s old nemesis, and Rose Byrne (“X-Men: Apocalypse”) as Bea, a modern version of Potter.

Peter’s new adventure is set in England’s “rich country,” as several characters snarkily describe. The bucolic land of Peter is now overrun with flashy Londoners weekending in their pristine Land Rovers.

But some things never change … Peter and Mr. McGregor are still fighting over those tomatoes and carrots and he’s still just barely making it back under the fence before being made into rabbit pie. When old Mr. McGregor moves on, Peter thinks he’s home free. Enter young McGregor. Played with great verve and arch humor by Gleeson, this McGregor is a London transplant out of his element. He just wants to spiff up the manor and sell. But when he meets the lovely Bea, he has other thoughts. So does Peter, when he realizes his main ally is smitten with his new enemy. Peter (voiced by the hilarious James Corden) enlists his younger sisters and just about every anthropomorphic animal you could imagine in the English countryside in all out rabbit-human war.

It’s really not as violent as it seems, and it’s ten times funnier than it sounds. Gluck has imbued his film with plenty of winky in-jokes that parents will get, and physical humor kids of all ages will love. Bea and McGregor’s love story provides some much needed heart, but not as much as the gentleness Bea shows these impish bunnies. The lush countryside, Bea’s charming cottage and McGregor’s splendid manor give a modern day fairy-tale aspect to this delightful new chapter for Peter Rabbit.

REVIEW

Peter Rabbit

Who: Directed by Will Gluck. With Domhnall Gleeson, Rose Byrne, and the voices of James Corden, Margot Robbie.

Rated: Rated PG for some rude humor and action.

Running time: 93 minutes.

When: Opens Friday

Where: Area theaters

Grade: A

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