WHEN I was a young scruff of a thing, with a well-thumbed Beatrix Potter book in my sticky clutches, pushing my (unpalatable at that age) carrots around my dinner plate, one of my Dad’s stock jokes (to add to the 31 December ‘I won’t have a bath until next year’ classic) was rolled out: ‘Eat up…you won’t see rabbits wearing glasses’.
But I have now seen them not just sporting spectacles, but twerking, riding a motorbike and detonating dynamite with catastrophic results.
The purists have gone into collective unhappy bunny meltdown, bellowing sacrilege that the delicate 19th century creation that is Peter Rabbit has been given the Paddington treatment. There was uproar over that and then the second film went on to become the best reviewed movie to date on Rotten Tomatoes with everyone who has seen it lighting up on mention and saying it is great.
And this offering (in a similar vein being a live-action/animation hybrid) is also sparky and funny and proving correct the theory that there really is nothing quite like an electrified door handle for kicks, a ripple of a belly laugh going around the cinema auditorium every moment it happened – and that was at least five times.
James Cordon is the undeniable voice box of Peter, who wears with pride the distinctive blue jacket passed down from his late father, who ended up in evil Mr McGregor’s pie dinner.
He and his sisters Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail (voiced by Margot Robbie, Elizabeth Debicki and Daisy Ridley) and cousin Benjamin are causing their rake-wielding nemesis untold distress with daring attempts to relieve him of his juicy radishes, plums and long, orange roots.
It may have been a succession of unwise and unhealthy life choices that leads to him face down in the dirt and being taken away in an ‘ice cream van’ – the rabbits are mistaken with an ambulance – but they certainly did not help.
Enter great nephew Thomas (Domhnall Gleeson), who has punching Peter Rabbit now on his conscience. He has his great uncle’s delightful DNA and after being overlooked at Harrod’s for an expected promotion and having a tantrum in the toy department, he is escorted off the premises and thus decides he may as well head off to the Lake District after learning he is the sole beneficiary of his relative’s will, inheriting the house and the bountiful garden.
Both Peter and Thomas are vying for the affections of Bea (Rose Byrne), the reclusive artist who prefers wildlife for company and enjoys capturing their adventures on canvas. The dynamic changes as she falls for her new neighbour, much to the displeasure of her little furry friend who slips into sadism at points, evoking sympathy with a hapless McGregor junior.
There is a veritable Springwatch menagerie of supporting woodland characters, each with their own recurring gag; the cockerel who is surprised by sunrise every morning and is a proud Dad to hundreds of chicks, the roll necked posh pig who is going to start his diet tomorrow, a deer transfixed by headlights and Benjamin’s choice of brown jacket (is it buttons or is it nipples?) is a giggle. Even Mrs Tiggy-Winkle puts in an appearance, although her downfall (peanut butter) is revealed in a rather violent fashion.
There has been some distaste expressed at the quips about a blackberry allergy, but no harm done really (thankfully the Epipen is deployed in time).
Is Potter spinning wildly in her vegetable patch? I don’t know. Peter is hell-bent on preserving his hero credentials come the end of the film, albeit in a very 21st century way.
And there are a bunch of cute nods to the original text and artwork – including the way he slides under the gate. There will genuinely be worse ways to spend an hour or so of the Easter holidays, scoffing some Mini Eggs and melting into those brown bunny eyes.
So from rapping sparrows to warbling Jackmans, I’ve given in and watched it at last to see what all the fuss is about: The Greatest Showman.
I have friends who have viewed this film FIVE TIMES. They have attended the sing-along screenings wearing clip-on beards in honour of one of the characters of the piece.
If you have been living in a cave this year, Hugh Jackman is PT Barnum – who by all accounts has history rewritten for him through this movie; rather than a cruel, exploitative slave driver, he emerges a philanthropist, a champion of misfits and minorities. After a tough start in life, he dreams of something better for him and his childhood sweetheart and creates his circus with performers who would otherwise live in the shadows.
It is very clear why the big musical numbers – A Million Dreams, Never Enough, Rewrite the Stars, This Is Me – have captivated audiences who have belted them out in their seats. There is an enduring but uplifting central message and feel good exploding all over from a gargantuan glitter canon.
It is still just odd being in the cinema and the singing starting. And having got over the trauma of Jackman pleading for a loaf of bread in Les Misérables, he is at it again. To be fair, his voice, Zac Efron’s, Michelle Williams’, they all do the job.
There is certainly eye candy for people of every conceivable persuasion. The cinema spectacle of the year. Done. And maybe, just maybe, a little shoulder shimmy and a hum across the car park afterwards.