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‘Peter Rabbit’ still enjoyable amid allergy controversy

Ni Nyoman Wira
Ni Nyoman Wira

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Tue, February 20, 2018  /  01:38 pm

The lovable characters in Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Peter Rabbit come alive in the fantasy-comedy, Peter Rabbit.

Directed by Will Gluck, the film narrates the adventures of the naughty, cheerful rabbit who dons a blue jacket.

Happily living inside a large tree, Peter (voiced by James Corden) lives with his father (Bryan Brown), mother (Rachel Ward) and three younger sisters: Flopsy (Margot Robbie), Mopsy (Elizabeth Debicki) and Cotton-Tail (Daisy Ridley). But everything changes when Old McGregor (Sam Neill) moves into a nearby farmhouse and builds fences around his farm. Peter’s father tries to sneak onto the farm to get food, but he is caught by McGregor, who turns him into a pie.

Peter tries valiantly to fill his father’s shoes. He steals as many fruits and vegetables as he can from the farm, although he has to be quiet while facing the danger of traps. Fortunately, Peter has the protection of McGregor’s neighbor, a young painter named Bea (Rose Byrne).

One day, Peter’s wish to own the farm comes true when McGregor dies of a heart attack. But the situation does not last long, as McGregor's great-nephew, the neat control freak Thomas McGregor (Domhnall Gleeson), inherits the farm and decides to sell it to build a toy shop. Peter and his family have to think up new strategies to face Thomas to protect their way of life.

Read also: Sony apologizes to parents over 'Peter Rabbit' food allergy scene

Following its release, Peter Rabbit was criticized for one of its scenes, in which Peter and his sisters throw blackberries into Thomas’s mouth, as they know he is allergic to the fruit. The issue became widespread on social media, hashtagged #boycottpeterrabbit.

Kenneth Mendez, president of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, wrote an open letter on the matter, saying that the scene “makes light of the seriousness of food allergies and suggests that food allergies are ‘made up for attention’”.

Meanwhile, The New Yorker compared the film to Looney Tunes, which is accurately appropriate. The jokes in Peter Rabbit may remind viewers of the classical animated series, as well as Hanna-Barbera's Tom and Jerry, as they include explosives, booby traps and rakes. There are also scenes where Thomas is electrocuted by a cleverly rigged door handle, ala The Road Runner.

Despite the criticism, Peter Rabbit is still enjoyable. At its Indonesian premiere, the audience could be heard (and seen) laughing throughout the film. The smooth, computer-generated imagery (CGI) and solid interaction between the characters also succeeds in bringing the tale and its characters to life. (kes)

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