Just the sight of the name in the title may have some people clicking quickly to another review but, thankfully, this Potter film has nothing to do with the four-eyed dope that has blighted our Christmas schedules for the last 6 years.
Miss Potter is in fact a quirky biopic of Beatrix Potter, the children’s writer who created characters such as Jemima Puddle-Duck, Mrs Tiggy-Winkle, and, most famously of all, Peter Rabbit.
Born into a traditional Victorian family, Beatrix defies social convention by branching out on her own with her debut book “The Tale of Peter Rabbit”, before falling in love with her publisher Norman Warne (McGregor), much to the disgust of her social-climbing parents.
Zellweger (who may well pick up her fourth Oscar nod in 6 years) is perfectly cast in the lead role, with her ruddy cheeks, well-honed English accent, and comic timing all suited to Beatrix’s eccentric character.
As her bumbling love interest McGregor is also an inspired choice - not least because his namesake was the villain in the author’s most famous work! – and his chemistry with Zellweger works far better here than in their previous big screen pairing in “Down With Love”.
Richard Maltby Jr’s debut script is an entertaining comedy of manners and, despite his American roots, he has crafted a very English movie, which is backed up by authentic period designs and some dazzling photography of the Lake District.
When a music video from Katie Melua takes second (and last) billing on a special features package you know you’re in trouble. The only other extra on offer here (excluding the trailer – God knows why anyone wants to watch this when they’ve already got the film in their DVD player) is a 30-minute “Making of Miss Potter” featurette.
As well as a chat with director Noonan, all of the stars make brief appearances, giving some background information on what attracted them to the project and how they went about preparing for their roles. The half hour is filled out with a perfunctory look at the production design and costumes.
Mixing whimsical comedy and heart-breaking tragedy, Miss Potter is very much a movie for adults despite its “U” certificate.
The cutesy directing from Chris “Babe” Noonan may grate with some, and the absence of any reference to Beatrix’s lifelong struggle with the Royal Botanic Society is a curious omission. However, this whimsical tale is a surprisingly enjoyable experience that proves to be much more satisfying than most films out there aimed at the female audience.
And at only 90 minutes long, Miss Potter – unlike her famous subject matter – could never be accused of rabbiting on.
Staring: Renee Zellweger, Ewan McGregor, Emily Watson, Barbara Flynn, Bill Patterson
Extras: Making of Miss Potter, Katie Melua's When You Taught Me How To Dance music video