- Review by Kaya Savas - April 19, 2018
Peter Rabbit is the modern take on the classic children’s book, The Tale Of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter. The film is directed by Will Gluck and has a beautifully crafted score by Dominic Lewis. The film’s trailers put a lot of people off, but once the film came out people were happy to see that this version of Peter Rabbit still had plenty of heart at its core for a memorable and fun experience.
Dominic Lewis’ score really is the heart of the film, even though it only runs at roughly 30-minutes, and has to navigate a lot of songs as well as visual comedy. It would have been very easy for some composer to come into this movie to make it feel like an alt rock band scored it, but thankfully Dom was in charge and laid out a score that has a light youthful bounce but with an old classic soul. Dom definitely tapped into his classic roots for the melodies and got to record the score with an orchestra in Australia. What makes this score exceptional though is that everything feels like it was poured from the heart of the composer. You can almost feel him sitting in the room with you as you listen.
The themes and melodic structure of the score are just beautiful, it’s amazing that you can have this energy at one moment then you get hit with feels the next. The way the score is structured is that we get to experience the fun slapstick nature of the film’s first and second acts, but in the third act some real emotional weight creeps in. However, where the score truly shines is where Dominic Lewis’ personality takes over the music, and when his voice becomes embedded in the fabric of the score (literally). The big battle in the third act is inspired by Mozart’s "Dies Irae", it’s big and operatic in the best way and ends up leading into a very emotional and heartwarming finish to the whole journey. There’s also a beautiful theme we hear in “Wistful Windemere” that gets reprised in the last track titled “1902”, which is literally Dom serenading you (yes those are his lovely vocals). Also worth noting are the brilliant use of garden tools in the fabric of the score, most notable the garden shears used as percussion throughout many of the tracks.
Peter Rabbit as a film is in a completely different territory than say something from Pixar or Dreamworks, and it would be unfair to stack it against something like Ratatouille or Wall-E. As a family-friendly romp with lots of slapstick and a surprising amount of heart, the film finds a voice of its own and does an amazing job at it. Similar to how John Powell found this big emotional core in a lighthearted film like Ferdinand, Dominic Lewis found the same here with the lighthearted Peter Rabbit. The score earns its high marks because this is music born from deep within Dominic Lewis and nothing about it feels forced or fake. It's so easy to for something like this to be seen as "standard Sony fare" or a "cash grab", but thankfully the heart in this project shows. I wish more movies allowed composers to truly express themselves like Dom got to do here, and while Peter Rabbit is not a game-changing piece of filmmaking it somehow found its special voice and soared with it. Especially if you look at past similar films like Hop or The Smurfs. If you close off the world and don't compare this harmless family adventure to other things, the score manages to be a breath of fresh air instead of a carbon copy of what came before it in this genre. Expert craftsmanship, organic emotion, and melodic hooks make Peter Rabbit something really special.