Movie Review: ‘Peter Rabbit 2’

Director: Will Gluck

Cast: Domhnall Gleeson, Rose Byrne, David Oyelowo, James Corden, Margot Robbie, Elizabeth Debicki, Aimee Horne, Colin Moody, Lennie James, Sia, Sam Neil, Hayley Atwell

Plot: Peter Rabbit becomes frustrated that everyone perceives him as a trouble-maker even when he’s trying to help. He decides to lean into the reputation and joins a gang of street animals planning a heist in a Farmer Market.

Review: Well…I wasn’t expecting that…

I didn’t see the first Peter Rabbit, I assumed it was a cringe-inducing sassy reimagining of the classic, wholesome characters. It turns out Peter Rabbit 2 knew what I was expecting to see and decided to satirise the entire perception of remakes like this. I thought my Sunday morning would be a twee affair, instead it was Baby’s First Charlie Kaufman movie.

We open with Bea (Byrne) and Thomas (Gleeson) getting married, much to the chagrin of their pet/child Peter Rabbit (Corden). Bea’s illustrated children’s book about Peter’s shenanigans has become an indie darling and she is approached by big-time publisher Nigel Basil-Jones (Oyelowo) carrying an irresistible offer. Wanting the money to protect natural rural areas, Bea takes the offer. This eventually creates a rift between the newlyweds as Nigel sways Bea further and further away from her artistic ideals and selling out their family. This is the interesting part, as Bea slowly adds more marketable elements to her sequel story, such as contemporary clothing, exciting clothing and action sequences.

Towards the start of the film there’s a very on the nose comment about Peter Rabbit’s story being adapted to a marketing driven movie made by an American. On the nose to the point of a character breaking the fourth wall to look at the audience. I thought this was an attempt to hand-wave lazy writing by lamp-shading it, but this turned out to be a hint of things to come. The marketing suggestions begin to leak into Peter’s parallel storyline, and he ends up pulling off an Ocean’s style heist with kidnapping, betrayal and sky-diving.

Is the first movie like this? Or did they only decide to take the piss in the sequel? Either way, I’m kinda into the idea. It works on a surface level for younger viewers, but there’s an undercurrent of cheekiness for observant parents.

The only major drawback is the casting of James Corden in titular role. There’s something terribly obnoxious and phoney about this guy and I find his humour detracts from most roles he’s involved in. There’s a self-aware running gag about Peter having an annoying voice, but annoying doesn’t quite cover it. He always manages to give every performance a Dudley Dursely kinda undercurrent. The rest of the class are charming and fun, with some nice physical comedy from Domhall Gleeson and his rubbery CGI stunt double to round things out.

It’s a visually fun movie, with the cuddly critters capturing the same fuzzy feeling as their printed originals. Even if their behaviour isn’t completely in line with the Beatrix Potter originals, their attitudes are mostly intact. It’s hard not to enjoy the visuals of the British wildlife getting up to mischief.

For reasons we don’t understand, the subtitle ‘The Runaway’ has been dropped in our region. I don’t know why this decision was made, but I don’t think they considered how it would impact one of the final reveals of the film.

Rating: SEVEN out of TEN