After seeing the dreadful trailer for James Corden’s new Peter Rabbit film—if we can even truly call it that—I have finally come to accept that the last vestiges of what was once sacred have been torn down.
In this new version—I shudder to even call it that—the little bunny has been turned into a rude frat boy, complete with denim jacket, who turns the house of Mr. McGregor (a very young Mr. McGregor) into a wild Animal House style party. That in itself doesn’t sound like enough plot to call a movie, but with the Emoji Movie released earlier this year, it’s clear that doesn’t matter anymore.
After being excited when I heard of a new Peter Rabbit film, and then gravely disappointed, I had to ask the question: did the writers of this actually read the original work? Did they not have any fond memories in regards to this children’s classic? In this age, does making quality children’s stories and staying true to children’s classics even matter?
The answer seems to be no. At least in Hollywood’s eyes.
Gone are the days of children’s films with beautiful art, moving music and well-written stories; films that people could trust would have quality content without needing to read reviews. In their place are scores of forgettable, pointless films full of poorly drawn cartoons, rude gags and half-chewed “lessons” thrown in at the last minute that offer no thought at all.
“We’re too bored to make quality films,” they seem to say, “and kids will be too bored to pay attention so why bother!”. Thanks to that, kids receive loud, gross and mostly pointless garbage that looks like it was animated by a high school art student.
Yes, it’s difficult to come up with a moving story line that offers something beyond fart jokes. Some talent is required. But if you can make money quicker by pumping out constant sequels and worn out brand names, I don’t suppose I can blame them.
Older Disney films often based their works on great morality plays and literary works. The Lion King, for instance, is based on Hamlet. And you just need to hear one lecture by Dr. Jordan Peterson to discover just how deep the imagery and message in Pinocchio is.
Yet now popular children’s films seem to enjoy focusing more on selfish nature of me. Such immature ideas are made popular by films like Frozen, with its most famous song, Let it Go, offering such inspiring truths as “No right, no wrong, no rules for me…” Or in the new version of The Jungle Book, where Mowgli doesn’t accept responsibility and grows up, as the original story told. Instead, he stays in the jungle to live out a childish fantasy of no worry and no strife.
At the rate we’re going, the next release of Winnie the Pooh will have poop jokes and all the animals beating up poor Owl for being too smart.
It is a real shame—and insulting to the viewer, really. I don’t believe that kids are born with a shorter attention span then I had. Or that they can’t handle the deeper lessons and more serious topics that films these days shy away from. I don’t believe that kids wouldn’t enjoy old animated films like Pinocchio or Fantasia if given the chance. And I don’t believe that if creators in entertainment went to the trouble now they wouldn’t find success with their films.
Children can appreciate the quieter moments in life and those are the things that often stick with them the most. But Hollywood doesn’t seem to want to give them that chance.
In the end, I think it does all of us a disservice.
Of course not every film has to have the tone of a childhood bedtime story, and it’s not up to movies to teach children right from wrong, but parents have long relied upon stories and fables to help illustrate lessons and values to children in a way that they enjoyed and stuck with them. Those stories had a point. They were such stories that would leave something with the reader or viewer other than two hours of wasted time. It’s not something that is simply forced out in a half-hour script writing session; it contains lessons and tropes that have run through the stories of the ages. That is what stirs people when they read and watch. That is what they remember.
Beatrix Potter did this with her stories, but something tells me the new Peter Rabbit won’t have much to offer.