Once upon a time, Renée Zellweger had a wonderfully open face, and her early, best roles (Jerry Maguire, The Whole Wide World, One True Thing) had a surprising reserve of expression that made her very easy to watch. Now, many years later, that face has utterly frozen into a human version of a scrunchie, and appears as if it will shatter into 1,000 pieces if an honest smile were to break out. Whether this should be attributed to the nip/tuck factory or not is irrelevant, it just proves that as each year progresses, this particular actress gets less and less interesting, and in the dreadful biopic Miss Potter, she never leaves the screen for a second. And that’s very bad news, indeed.
Perhaps the most pointless film bio of all time, centering on the cosmically unexciting life of Peter Rabbit author Beatrix Potter and how she wrote some books, fell in love, and became a farmer. Seriously, that’s her whole life, despite its pretensions to presenting her as some kind of robofeminist purveyor of wisdom (yet the film barely seems to care when she acts like a dewy, silly little will-o’-the-wisp). And in 92 minutes, the movie still cannot justify its reason for existing. Even Bridget Jones fans (a fairly undiscerning lot) may wonder why the hell this particular woman deserves her own motion picture, versus your neighborhood grocer or the crack ho who routinely asks if you’d like a date when you walk by.
Perhaps the saddest thing about this debacle is that it’s Chris Noonan’s follow-up to the 1995 beaut Babe, and despite the poorly integrated animation and the occasional cut to a farm pig, there is almost no evidence of the director who once exhibited a rare sense of lighthearted tone that didn’t give one a toothache. There is evidence of botched editing here (even while things don’t happen at an alarming rate), but his handling of the actors is truly pathetic, letting The Great Scrunchface go mad with mannerisms, allowing Ewan McGregor to do variations on his twit gallery, and the unspeakable crime of making the luminous Emily Watson look worse than she ever has before.