Review: Hyper sequel 'Peter Rabbit 2' frolics with joy
Courtesy of Sony
Set within the universe of the classic Beatrix Potter character, Will Gluck’s hyper, formulaic, but cute sequel - delayed a record ten times during the pandemic - “Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway” frolics with bountiful joy and energy. Anchored with a self reflective and meta sense-of-humor, “Peter Rabbit 2” puts James Corden’s infectious and near perfect casting back in the spotlight, this time dealing with an ego and identity crisis. Is Peter a trouble marker? Bad seed? Or just simply misunderstood? All comes to light in a handful of silly gags and running jokes guaranteed to produce maximum giggles among the target demographic. The animals are adorable and fluffy too, you almost want to reach into the screen and give ‘em a squeeze.
Gluck and Patrick Burleigh’s screenplay knows how to inject a fresh dose of spotanointy in “Peter Rabbit 2,” infusing the sequel with enough playful troupes and interesting new characters to keep things breezy. Picking up in the aftermath of 2018’s original, Peter (Corden) has made amends with the wily Mr. McGregor (Domhnall Gleeson - fantastic) who has since married his cute neighbor/author Bea (Rose Byrne) and together have turned the misadventures of the first movie into a popular children’s book. It catches the attention of David Oyelowo’s Nigel Basil-Jones, a notorious publisher who’s fielded several number one bestsellers and has plans to rebrand Peter Rabbit for the next generation as the villain of his own story. Nigel has some other “suggestions” about the series: assuming kids don’t want to read about bunnies rummaging through gardens for produce; rather, talking animals flying into outer space or surfing on the beach are the rage.
Peter - after feeling the bluntness of his forthcoming remarketing - links up with a rag-tag squad of thieves (headed by the Lennie James voiced Barnabes) in an effort to pull off a farmers market heist for the ages. One that entails a plentiful bounty of cheese and dried fruit that forces Peter to either conform with his new gang and indulge in old habits or continue fostering a positive home life in the countryside. Of course, these are predictable life lessons parents have seen retereded countless times, but Gluck is facing criticism from his 2018 “Peter Rabbit” where folks complained it wasn’t in the spirit of Potter’s books. “Peter Rabbit 2” still keeps the blissful energy and spirit of Potter’s characters - fans will be glad to see Mopsy (Elizbeth Debecki); Flopsy (Margot Robbie) and Cottentail (Aimee Horne) are back in the mix - but this isn’t your grandmother’s Peter Rabbit.
The competing narratives - Bea battling over the publishing agencies creative liberties with her intellectual property; Mr. McGregor trying to find common ground with Peter and the possibilities of fatherhood; and the heist; - spin its wheels trying to gain traction and occasionally fall flat, though resisting these furry critters aren’t easy. “Peter Rabbit 2” won’t solve many of the world’s problems, but for 90 minutes, it helped me forget about mine. For better or worse.
PETER RABBIT 2 is now playing only in theaters.