FEBRUARY 9, 2018 -- In 1902, at the age of 36, Beatrix Potter published her first illustrated book, Peter Rabbit using her pet rabbit Peter Piper as a reference. After much success, she followed it with twenty-two other stories about critters in the area, but none were more successful than her first. Her books continue to sell - about two million a year - making her one of the more successful childrens books authors in history.


Director Will Gluck ("Annie", "Friends With Benefits") along with writer Rob Lieber, decided to modernize the lingo and merge an animated Peter Rabbit with live actors in his latest film. To say it is loosely based on the original Potter book is a strech but sadly acurate; very loosely based.


James Corden voices Peter Rabbit in a new age, millennial lingo that knocks the charm of the Ms Potters rabbit. His life mission is to get into the garden of Old Mr McGregor (Sam Neill) and grab as much loot as he can. The grumpy old man can think of nothing he'd like more than to make Peter into a pie filling. Alas, old McGregor drops dead before he can do it.

That leaves the animal loving Bea (Rose Byrne) as the only human around which is fine with the local critters; she presumably represents Beatrix Potter. But the atmosphere of joy and quiet is quickly numbed when McGregor's grand-nephew Thomas moves in after inheriting the property.


Despite Bea's explanation that the critters like to run through the property, Thomas considers them nothing more than vermin; something that must be exterminated. Thus commences the battle between young Thomas, Peter and the other critters and Bea. It's filled with much of the same antics as we saw in "Over the Hedge" (2006) with pretty much the same plot.


While the plots are similar, what brings Gluck's latest offering down is his need to modernize the lingo to make it hip. It should have a film that compliments the currently playing "Paddington 2" film, but instead demonstrates how much more superior Paul King's film is. Make no mistakes, the animated Peter is top notch as are all the animated animals and how well they integrated with the live humans, spectacular.


There are a few adult oriented gags that adult viewers will find humorous but not enough to save it for the targeted audience of younger kids. Instead of trying to reach them in today's lingo, it would have been more appropriate to bring them back to the lingo of the early 1900's England, which is how they would have to read the books. This is what made "Winnie the Pooh" eternally charming.


Young children may still get a kick out of the animated interaction with the adults, but the story - because of the lingo update - was lost on the 5-8 year old children in my audience.


"Peter Rabbit" suffers from the urge to modernize a story that should have been left alone. Despite wonderful technical creativity, the story is so butchered, Beatrix Potter would be shaking her head in sorrow.   -- GRADE C-  --   GEOFF BURTON