Review / ‘Peter Rabbit’ (PG) ***

LEAVING the cinema, I asked a mother just ahead of me how her moppet had enjoyed writer (with Rob Lieber) and director Will Gluck’s movie about the character that people most quickly relate to in Beatrix Potter’s timeless children’s (of all ages) books.

The child thought it was great. What did she like most? That all the bad people were grown-ups! Top marks for that answer.

However, as an example of British cinema it owes much to the formative influence of American TV series – behaviour, vocabulary, dramatic structure, ethics and moral direction. Not that that influence detracts from the film’s entertainment values. When she created her very naughty hero Ms Potter could never have known what others would do to him. Would she have objected? Perhaps not.

The screenplay loses little time in disposing of old McGregor (Sam Neill) and Peter’s (voiced by James Corden) invitation to all the animals to move into his house. But in London, Thomas McGregor (Domhnall Gleeson) is about to get two shocks. He’s not going to get the promotion he yearns for as head of Harrods’ toy department. But on the other hand, he is his uncle’s sole heir. He can sell the property and use the proceeds to open his own shop.

Fat chance. Arriving at a house occupied by animals, birds and their detritus, Thomas makes cleaning up his first mission. But that won’t work while Peter runs free to lead a partisan campaign against him. And that conflict would be the film’s main purpose, were it not for the pretty girl next door. Sweet ditz and committed animal lover Bea (Rose Byrne) yearns for recognition as an artist.

Grown-ups escorting their kids or renewing acquaintance with their own childhood Potter favourites (mine is “The Tailor of Gloucester”, published 1902) will have no difficulty working out where this is heading. Getting there is great filmic fun for any age even if a little pretentious. Grown-ups also might justifiably wonder how Ms Potter might have felt if she were watching it in 2018.

At all cinemas

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