Rose Byrne

Peter Rabbit

03/04/18

It’s raining. Again. We’ve both taken an extended Easter break from work, but we don’t fancy going ahead with our planned walk around Roslin Glen. Not in this weather. Neither do we fancy staying in though; we’re on holiday, after all.

– Cinema?

– Nah, we’ve seen everything, haven’t we?

– Not quite everything…

– Ah.

And so we find ourselves in Cineworld, in front of Peter Rabbit. Our expectations are low. And they’re met.

It’s hard to know where to start. Except to say that it’s a crying shame this is so… unpleasant. It’s beautifully animated; it’s lively; it’s got some great slapstick routines. It’s got an impressive cast (we’re not part of the anti-Corden brigade; he was ace in One Man, Two Guvnors, not to mention The History Boys, Teachers, Gavin and Stacey, and so on). It’s genuinely funny at times. But, despite quite obviously trying to jump on the same bandwagon, it’s lacking the warm heart that makes Paddington succeed.

There’s so much nastiness here. Even if you removed the much-publicised ‘use-a-person’s-life-threatening-allergies-to-attack-them’ stuff, there’d still be plenty to dislike. Man dies of heart attack: a cause for celebration. Man suffers huge electric shocks: ha ha, how we laugh. There’s no one to root for. Not Thomas McGregor (Domhnall Gleeson), the man child/disgruntled Harrod’s sales assistant, who inherits his uncle’s Windermere cottage and embarks on a mission to rid his vegetable patch of rabbits. Not Bea (Rose Byrne), the drippy incarnation of Beatrix Potter, who thinks rabbits should have free access to crops. And, sadly, not Peter either, nor any of his chums: they’re all cocky and banter-driven, cruel and bullying.

And, honestly, it all gets a bit dull. I think it’d make a decent short; there’e enough comedy to make a riotous twenty-minute piece. But the plot is too thin and the characters too one-dimensional to sustain a feature film.

But, hey. The kids around us are laughing, clearly enjoying themselves. I know we’re the wrong demographic, and – if this works for its intended audience – who am I to complain? It’s just, y’know, Paddington. We know it can be done.

2.8 stars

Susan Singfield

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Annie

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4/1/15

Will Gluck’s reworking of Annie is a curate’s egg of a movie. The screening we attended what not so much peopled by ‘little girls’ whose freckles needed stamping on, as by women my age, who had clearly been fans of the 1982 version – and if they were anything like me – had high hopes this might have more verve and sparkle than the anodyne 1999 Disney adaptation. It certainly does have more verve and spark. In the lead role, Quvenzhané Wallis (an absolute delight in Beasts of the Southern Wild) is as feisty, kooky and determined as she needs to be and, she’s charming too, so that her disarming of Jamie Foxx (the restyled Daddy Warbucks) is quite credibly portrayed. The modernisation is nicely handled also. Foxx plays Will Stacks, a self-made mobile phone entrepreneur in need of a better media image; his cribs-style apartment is pure property porn. Rose Byrne as his PA, Grace Farrell, is perfectly adequate and it’s good to see Annie’s friendship with the (accidentally) racistly-drawn character of ‘mystic’ Punjab ousted in favour of a more sympathetic relationship with Warbucks’ chauffeur, Nash (Adawale Akkinuoye-Agbaje.)

But there are some unfortunate mis-steps too. Cameron Diaz’s Miss Hannigan really doesn’t work. She’s unconvincing as a foster mother of any sort, lurching and gurning her way drunkenly around the children’s home, clearly playing at trashy rather than living it. The music’s a bit hit-and-miss too. There are some interesting re-arrangements of the the old songs and a few new numbers thrown in to good effect, but they all lack lung-power and musicality; surely every musical needs at least one big blousy number? In 1982 Annie had some to spare. Here, they have been summarily kicked out and this is a mistake I think. Likewise the half-hearted choreography. Back in the day everyone hoofed it up in great style but here the actors stumble apologetically around as though they don’t quite want to admit they’re actually in a musical.

Overall, I liked it. Sort of. But I don’t see it capturing the imaginations of today’s kids in the way that Aileen Quinn and Carole Burnett did in the 80’s. This version simply isn’t strong enough to compete with everything that has gone before.

3.1 stars

Susan Singfield