Film review: 'Miss Potter' has lots of charm

Published: Friday, March 9 2007 12:51 a.m. MST

Renee Zellweger as the children's-book author Beatrix Potter.

Alex Bailey, The Weinstein Company

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MISS POTTER — *** — Renee Zellweger, Ewan McGregor, Emily Watson; rated PG (mild profanity).

"Miss Potter" may remind some of "Finding Neverland," the surprise 2004 hit that starred Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet.

Like that film, this sympathetic period drama tells a fictionalized version of the life story of a famous children's book author. And while it may not have the emotional hook of "Neverland," "Miss Potter" still has considerable charm.

This is also one of the few family-friendly films that really is all-age appropriate. (A couple of profanities are all that kept it from getting a G rating.)

As you may have guessed, the "Miss Potter" referred to by the title is Beatrix Potter, the author and artist of "Peter Rabbit," as well as other beloved children's books during the early 20th century. She's played by Renee Zellweger, who again adopts a credible British accent to play the character.

This film paints a portrait of Potter as an artistic, creative loner, still living with her well-to-do parents (Barbara Flynn and Bill Paterson) in her 30s.

Rather than finding a husband, she's busy trying to find a publisher for her stories. She eventually finds one in eager beaver Norman Warne (Ewan McGregor), who manages to turn "The Tale of Peter Rabbit" into a best-seller.

And as it turns out, she finds more than just a publisher. Norman is also clearly smitten with Beatrix, who feels the same way. But she has to contend with her parents, who disapprove of her relationship with a working-class man.

Director Chris Noonan (1995's "Babe") and first-time screenwriter Richard Maltby Jr. prove to be a good filmmaking team. Noonan also makes fine use of some digitally animated fantasy sequences that employ some of Potter's watercolor designs.

Speaking of pairings, Zellweger and McGregor — who re-team for the first time since 2003's "Down With Love" — work well together, and have believable chemistry. In fact, the entire ensemble cast is terrific. Emily Watson nearly steals the movie out from under the two leads, taking a meaty supporting role as Norman's feminist sister.

"Miss Potter" is rated PG for scattered use of mild profanity (religiously based). Running time: 92 minutes.


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