Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway

  • 03 Jul - 09 Jul, 2021
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Reviews

Perhaps the first big-name casualty of pandemic cinema closures, Peter Rabbit now gets to hop again. Will Gluck’s follow-up to his mostly likeable original is pretty much the same formula as before but pushes the meta-quality even further. It’s fun and frenetic with little in the way of chamomile tea and more in the way of Domhnall Gleeson having a boxing match with David Oyelowo. It may not be for the Beatrix Potter purists and has a scattershot quality, but remains enjoyable for its brisk 93 minutes.

Surprisingly Gluck and Patrick Burleigh’s screenplay has knowing fun with responses to the first film. With critics lambasting the original for misrepresenting Potter’s hero as arrogant, mean-spirited and downright evil, the A plot sees Peter go on a journey from selfish to selfless as, on a trip to Gloucester, he falls in with a Guy Ritchie-esque street gang led by grizzled rabbit crim Barnabas (Lennie James) and comes to realise he is not a bad sort, after all – it makes for a more appealing character all round.

The B plot takes on another pervading swipe at the first flick: the betrayal of the gentle whimsy of the original tales in favour of something loud and brash. Here, Bea (Rose Byrne) is wooed by big-name publisher Nigel Basil-Jones (David Oyelowo), who wants to take the characters based on her family and put them on a beach or blast them into space.

Although containing some fun moments, the first half lacks narrative drive. It takes a hugely convoluted heist at a farmers’ market and a last-reel rescue mission to sharpen the stakes and raise the pulse. Peter’s relations – sisters Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail, and cousin Benjamin Bunny – lack distinctive characters but there is enjoyment to be had in incidental figures: a pig who likes to pass judgement, a fox on a fitness streak and a busking squirrel who uncannily knows the right song to play at the right time.

It feels a little thin and generic compared to family fare like The Mitchells Vs The Machines, but the Byrne-Gleeson combo is winning and Gluck injects just enough slapstick and smarts to justify the last-gasp gag about a sequel.