An action shot of Peter Rabbit attempting to evade being blown up by a maniacal McGregor - yes, you read that correctlySONY PICTURES

Rabbits really are perfect creatures. They represent the quintessential English character superbly, a lover of comforts in the rural landscape. This is what Beatrix Potter saw in them, inspired by their long floppy ears and adorable little noses to write a book that has captured the imagination of generation after generation. Shielding her creation from the monstrous fury of Mr McGregor, Peter Rabbit is a symbol of balance and good nature in a conflicted world.

Director Will Gluck is a more lamentable beast than McGregor. Rather than simply preparing Peter for the slaughter, he has carved up Potter’s entire oeuvre, or “gang” as he would have it. Taking his cinematic shotgun off the mantelpiece, he shoots down one warm childhood memory after another. The result is a most grotesque piece of pie, which refuses to go down even with a sickening spoonful of sugar.

Trailer for Peter RabbitSONY PICTURES

A world in which a Peter Rabbit adaptation requires pyrotechnic experts and a soundtrack featuring some fellow named ‘Rancid’ is surely one to be abhorred. Any parent with an ounce of moral concern will avert their child’s eyes while Cotton-Tail (or “Co’on-Tail”, as James Corden’s slurring bunny calls her) gives McGregor a “wet willy”, or Peter tries to insert a carrot into Sam Neill’s anus. The ghastly obscenities on display are far from the refined manners of Paddington and its exquisite sequel which Gluck seems to be attempting emulate. Were this misguided American remotely aware of what etiquette meant, he might have left the market to Paul King’s beloved series and spared us this swill that even Pigling Bland would not touch.

Of course, this could just be the scolding of a nostalgic critic; however, the effect of the film on the younglings in the audience was something truly extraordinary. As Peter drags Benjamin Bunny into his naughty antics, so too did he manipulate and corrupt the minds of children. One little girl started leaping from chair to chair, while another appeared to be having some sort of fit in the aisle. Indeed, there were times when the dialogue, if it can be referred to as such (“his face was so classic, he was like *ugh* *ugh* *ugh*”), was entirely drowned out by the howls and cries of infants. One wonders if Gluck is proud of himself and his bitter amorality.

Perhaps Peter Rabbit is made all the more chilling by its infrequent glimpses of a film that could have been. Potter’s original drawings are brought to life through some fine pieces of animation, and the romance between Domhnall Gleeson and Rose Byrne has one pining for a Richard Curtis follow-up to About Time. But it is interspersed by raucous house parties in which Peter gets high and an unconscious Mr Tod has his belly shaved – how a family film promoting drug and alcohol abuse got past the censors is a wonder to behold – and the oh-so-hilarious use of high voltage electricity and dynamite in the war of the garden. This is the way the world ends, this the way the world ends, this is the way the world ends…

Nothing can be salvaged from the cast lending their cockney tones to our beloved furry friends. It is remarkable how an actress with such atrocious line delivery as Daisy Ridley can stand out above the likes of Sia and Margot Robbie, the latter of whom provides droll narration rendered utterly superfluous by the absence of plot. Even under the guise of reasonably well-animated animals, their incessant whining hardly balances out the relentless ‘action’ sequences in between.


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Obviously, none of this matters to Sony – their unashamedly overt partnership with Harrods reveals that the whole affair is simply a 90-minute advertisement for a new line of Potter-inspired merchandise (plus the half-an-hour trailer reel featuring themed promotions for everything from Pets at Home to Willows Activity Farm). Never fear, for they do not quite have a monopoly over the film, as we witness the joys a game of Bananagrams can bring. Heck, in the spirit of shameless self-promotion, why not click here to see my review of Kenneth Branagh’s Murder on the Orient Express? You may notice certain parallels.

There is nothing wrong in bringing a fresh take on classic source material, but Gluck has crossed the picket fence and danced naked on the other side. With harmony seemingly restored at the close, it can only be hoped that his criminal offences will end here and all memory of this mess will be buried deep beneath the ground. That being said, it might be an idea to bake the filmmakers in a pie, just to be safe

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