This Easter, I told my girls we were cutting back on chocolate and I was taking them to the movies instead. They’d seen the trailer for Peter Rabbit some time ago and were excited to finally see it. I also took my friend’s two daughters, so went with a giggling gaggle of four girls aged 7, 8, 9 and 10 years old.
Overall, they enjoyed it and I thought it was ok. If you take it lightheartedly (as seems to be the only option for kids movies these days) it’s entertaining. I’ve certainly sat through worse movies. My (8 year old) daughter dubbed it “her new favourite movie” but that had more to do with the fact that she loves bunnies than it being a brilliant film.
Some friends commented on an earlier Facebook post that they were boycotting this film, due to the lack of sensitivity to children with severe allergies, as one scene shows the rabbits using a blackberry allergy as a “weapon”. Though Sony apologised later (as these New Yorker and BBC articles describe) the line in the movie that has Peter saying “I don’t want to get any letters” shows makers were aware of potential controversy to begin with.
I can take some personal perspective on this, as I grew up with a severe peanut allergy. Cruel children in primary school did use this against me, taunting me and even holding me down once to smear it on me. So kids using this against each other is nothing new, movie or no movie. However I do agree with those attacking Sony in that as a large entertainment organisation not only targeting but profiting from children seeing the film, this is not only unnecessary but irresponsible.
Personally, I have more issue with the constant violence – albeit presented in this, and many children’s films, as entertainment. It seems as though filmmakers believe children won’t sit through a sweet, slow film – which, I guess, could be true, but it’s disappointing as a parent to not really be given that option. Though I had some preparation from the trailer, growing up with Peter Rabbit stories, the overall tone of my memories of cute but cheeky bunnies was not really reflected in the film. Instead it made me think of “Home Alone”, where one small “creature” wages full on war upon an adult. Putting aside the fact that this adult is actually the owner of a property which he could fairly expect to not be trashed by the wildlife (even if he is a bit of an annoying character), the violence – on both sides – just feels overdone. I’ve seen it called “slapstick” and it does seem to make children laugh but I hope as a society, we start to rethink any form of violence being fed to young audiences as fun. In fact, the part my girls laughed the most at, even after the film, was the deer – “headlights, headlights” – no violence whatsoever.
Technically, the movie is beautiful though, with lovely English countryside scenery and the computer generated animal characters blending in seamlessly with the human actors. We actually have a challenge here in the Netherlands to take children to see the original English language version, as children’s movies are dubbed. Thankfully they were showing it over the Easter weekend. I recognised James Corden’s voice but no others during the actual film – and only now I’m looking at the full cast list, I see that I didn’t even recognise Sam Neill as the Old McGregor. It would have been interesting to know in advance that celebrities from my home country of Australia, Sia and Bryan Brown, also have a small (voiceover) part. I also see that the main female (human) lead is Rose Byrne, also from Australia, though this is the first I’ve heard of/seen her.
My own summary of this movie is to simply enjoy it and not take it too seriously.
My 8 year old’s review:
I thought it was a nice movie, it was very funny because they had funny jokes. It has bunnies in it and I love bunnies. I asked what the funniest joke was. “Look the ice cream truck with the flashing lights is taking him away” (the ambulance). When I probed a bit further if there was anything she didn’t like, or anything that could have been changed, she drew a blank.
My 10 year old…
I thought it was really cute. An enjoyment for the whole family. I didn’t like the loud bangs of the explosions. The funniest bit was where Bea keeps coming in when Peter and Mr McGregor are fighting and they stop.
With both girls, when I asked them a little more about the storyline or what they did/didn’t like, it seems they don’t remember much. I did notice a couple of times in the last week since we’ve seen it, something happens that reminds them of the movie and they’ll quote a line here or there. They say they’d like to see it again sometime.
My friend’s 7 & 9 year old:
The funniest bit was when the Hedgehog licked the peanut butter off the electric fence and her spikes went everywhere. My friend – yes, people said that was funny but don’t you think it was violent? No-one got hurt, they just got poked. My friend – do you think people should go see it? Both girls: YES! Its Eastery but a bit crazy.
We are the very proud “parents” of a pet bunny and Peter Rabbit reminded us a lot of him – so my daughter gave him a cuddle when we got home – almost like a “meet the star” experience!
Have you seen the movie? What did you and your kids think?