I love the Peter Rabbit films. Love, love, love them. And I love James Corden as Peter Rabbit. James Corden’s voice is perfect, there’s nothing even slightly annoying about it at all. In fact, it couldn’t be bettered. And I love the scripts; full of self-aware witticisms as they are, and madcap buffoonery and ridiculous stunts. And I love the music. And the CG rabbits and various other sundry CG creatures. And I love Rose Byrne and Domhnall Gleeson.
Peter Rabbit 2 is currently on Sky and I’ve watched it three times already, in three days. That’s once every day. Clearly there’s something wrong with me (besides the fact that I obviously currently lead a non-productive, bone-idle life) because the critics loathed the first Peter Rabbit film. In particular, the Guardian’s film critic, whose opinions of most films diverge completely from that of the movie going populace. Which leads me to wonder how he holds on to his job as a film critic. Or perhaps that’s why he holds onto the job, just so I click to see what else he got completely wrong. And anyway. One (and by ‘one’ I mean you solitary reader) should never be swayed by the critics and their critiques – and that includes this critic critiquing these films.
I’ll tell you one thing – as a slap in the face to the Potter purists and to Matthew Dennison (Potter’s biographer who assumes that Beatrix would be turning in her grave) – and that is, that both rabidly attacked Peter Rabbit films will have probably done more to increase the popularity of Peter Rabbit than the Potter (Beatrix not Harry) books themselves. If that makes any sense at all.
Because I’m pretty sure I must have given Beatrix Potter’s series of animal books a gander at some point in my childhood but, if I did, they made ZERO impact. I have no fond recollections at all of Peter (except I once knitted a Peter Rabbit doll) or Mrs Tiggy-Winkle, or the rest of Potter’s Lake District countryside crew. To understand why this should be so, I rapidly downloaded a copy of The Tale of Peter Rabbit from Gutenberg free press. Apart from the illustrations, which are surely the key to the popularity of these books, the sparse storyline left me cold. But then, I’m no longer a 3-5-year-old being read to by doting parents, and I was never a 3-5-year-old living circa 1902.
To return to the madness of critics. One of the Empire’s film critics believes that ‘you could write a complicated thesis about the morality of Beatrix Potter’s most famous story’’ (when reviewing the first Peter Rabbit.) No, you couldn’t! I shouted at him through my screen. I challenge said critic to write up to 80,000 words on Peter Rabbit, the 20th Century’s Greatest Morality Tale, using the meagre storyline Ms Potter dreamt up. Like the other critics, Empire accuses Will Gluck (the films’ director/co-writer) of trying to make Peter Rabbit ‘cool,’ of not using the right ‘take’ on this ‘great morality tale’ and (worst sin possible) commercialising the hell out of Peter whilst losing the book’s innocence and simplicity. Well, I’m here to tell you that the sainted Ms Potter got there way before the much-maligned Will Gluck.
For, back in 1903, she too was busy commercialising the hell out of her fluffy creations in order to make another bunny buck. She had the idea to manufacture a Peter Rabbit doll (and patented that idea) as a new way to merchandise the books. Her Victorian publishers called this commercialism ‘vulgar’ – nothing changes does it? And what’s wrong with Beatrix charging her adoring readers for as many fluffy bunnies as they want, if it made them deliriously happy, whilst also allowing her to buy up vast swathes of the Lake District which she later willed to the National Trust. Potter, in fact, oversaw the production of tea sets, board games, wallpapers, slippers, china, stationery, all featuring her meticulously drawn critters. You can, therefore, bet that she’d have been right behind a celluloid Peter Rabbit, if it furthered book sales.
It’s my fervent hope that Gluck & Co continue to breed future sequels like…………well, like rabbits.