The live-action version of "Peter Rabbit" hopped its way into movie theaters this weekend, taking the No. 2 spot at the box office, attracting families, especially those who are fans of Beatrix Potter's classic books of the same name.
This family film is a modern version that brings Potter's beloved characters to life, including Peter Rabbit (voiced by James Corden) and his family — Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton Tail and Benjamin Bunny. The rabbits live in harmony with their human friend Bea (Rose Byrne) but not with their other neighbor, Mr. McGregor, who tries to catch the rabbits to eat in pies. When Mr. McGregor (Sam Neill) has a heart attack and dies, the rabbits take over his garden and home, unaware his nephew Thomas (Domhnall Gleeson) has inherited the property until he shows up unexpectedly one afternoon. Determine to drive Thomas away, Peter begins a feud with the young man, who has developed feelings for Bea.
While "Peter Rabbit" doesn't boast profanity or inappropriate sex scenes, characters do resort to questionable behavior that often lands them in perilous situations. Potter's classic stories are whimsical and mild-natured, but the film version of "Peter Rabbit" has spawned a bit of controversy, with many parents offended by a plot-point that involves the rascally rabbit using Thomas's food allergy against him. In one scene, Peter and his family toss blackberries at Thomas despite knowing he has a deadly allergy to them. Thomas uses an Epi-pen to counteract the effects, but parents should be aware some kids might get the idea of using food allergies in bullying against others. Thomas also uses questionable means to rid himself of the rabbits, such as electrocution and physical abuse, which could encourage children to mistreat animals.
Many scenes of Thomas and Peter's feud are played for laughs, and there is some name-calling, too. However, there are good messages about forgiveness and accepting responsibility for your actions that can benefit young audiences.
Overall, the children in my screening seemed to enjoy the film, laughing loudly throughout. Many of the jokes are funny enough for adults to enjoy, and the story is entertaining, even if it is over-the-top and unrealistic most of the time.
Bottom line: See this movie with caution, especially if your children suffer from food allergies. If you do see it, use the movie as a vehicle for discussing food allergies and ways to responsibly treat animals, and each other.
"Peter Rabbit" is rated PG for some rude humor and action. It is now playing in theaters nationwide.