Peter Rabbit ★★½

This week, Chris and I watched all five Oscar-nominated live action shorts, as well as two powerful Oscar-nominated foreign films: The Insult (Lebanon) and A Fantastic Woman (Chile). We also watched an animated film starring James Corden as a jacket-wearing bunny who wants to steal vegetables.

This post is about Peter Rabbit.

We tried to record a serious review of this movie. We really, really did. And after dozens of slip-ups, extended periods of awkward silence, and at least five minutes of uncontrollable laughter, we abandoned that recording and tried again. The truth is, you didn’t want a serious review of Peter Rabbit. What you wanted was to imagine two grown men leaving an afternoon showing of a tense Lebanese courtroom drama, stepping into a bar for multiple drinks, then joining a packed crowd of mostly children to watch a movie which features Domhnall Gleeson drinking from a toilet with a plastic straw.

Peter Rabbit is what I imagine happens when a writers' room packed with edgy comedians and a mid-tier late night host decide to pad a 15 minute premise into a 100 minute runtime. It’s Looney Tunes violent. It’s very, very silly. Virtually every sequence is choreographed to a Now That’s What I Call Indie Pop track. It’s got the see-what-sticks kitchen-sink style of humor common to most childrens’ movies, with half the jokes working (see: everything about the rooster) and half dripping harmlessly to the floor like a blackberry you squeezed to honor a fallen comrade. (It'll make sense, I swear.) The good news, though? The human actors absolutely sell each bit, strong or weak. Rose Byrne oozes with impossible charm and cartoon credulity, a perfect foil to the zany mayhem that surrounds her. Gleeson goes for broke in his physical comedy; lobbing sticks of dynamite, tripping over roughly 100 rakes, and being jolted across the room by an ongoing bit eerily similar to the Neighbors 2 airbags. Watching the two perform all that B-level material with A-level gusto isn’t only fun, it’s surprisingly endearing. Like getting to play pretend with a younger relative, or like being young yourself.

Kids will laugh their heads off, adults won’t mind, and a drink or two won’t hurt. You can catch our short, spoiler-free, only-mildly-chaotic second review in Episode 487 of The Spoiler Warning Podcast.