The rabbits are smarter; the humans are dumber.
If it’s one thing I’ve learned after seeing both “Peter Rabbit” and its sequel “Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway” is that the rabbits are smarter than the humans, which is why Bugs Bunny always defeats Elmer Fudd and Yosemite Sam. Before I get off topic, the first movie from 2018, based on Beatrix Potter’s beloved stories, was lame because of how Domnhall Gleeson was miscast in the role of the awkward and angry Thomas McGregor and its tired “Home Alone” gimmicks. The only elements I did like about the first movie, which I gave one and a half stars, are the voice actors-particularly James Corden as Peter Rabbit-and its traditionally animated segments.
Now, we’re on to the sequel, which is marginally better than the first, but still sells itself short, so I would rate it two stars. It still features the same annoying McGregor antics covered by CGI effects and stunts, comedy of situation for the other humans, and plot points we’ve seen done before. I know this was here first and it kept getting delayed, but I still would like to compare the humans to the ones wisely portrayed by Emma Stone, Emma Thompson, Joel Fry, Paul Walter Hauser, and Mark Strong in “Cruella.” None of them suffered from the John Hughes-written antics; they all had style and energy that made them so fun. But as for “Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway,” if we cut back on the humans, it would have been a better movie.
The story takes place after Thomas marries the kind-hearted Bea (Rose Byrne), who publishes her “Peter Rabbit” book and wins the attention of the famed publisher Nigel Basil-Jones (David Oyelowo). Peter is often judged by young McGregor as a troublemaker and an outcast, because of his antics. During Bea’s meeting in London, he wanders around and meets the charismatic thieving rabbit Barnabas (voiced by Lennie James from “The Walking Dead”), who claims to be his late father’s old friend. This is when Peter decides to join his gang.
The movie becomes “Ocean’s Eleven” as they enlist Peter’s family-sisters Flopsy (voiced by Margot Robbie), Mopsy (voiced by Elizabeth Debicki), and Cottentail (voiced by Daisy Ridley’s replacement Aimee Horne), and cousin Benjamin (voiced by Colin Moody)-and friends to pull off a dried fruit heist at the farmer’s market, which ends with the routine betrayal. Sounds like I’m giving away the story, but if you’ve seen a lot of movies, you can probably guess its outcome.
The rabbits in this sequel are more engaging than the original as they find themselves in some cute situations like Cottentail having a sugar rush or Flopsy changing her name to Lavatory because she wants to be different from Mopsy. Corden continues to have fun with the voice role, and his style and personality matches his character’s energy. And I liked the supporting vocal work from James, Robbie, Debicki, Horne, and Moody.
But why couldn’t the sequel push itself to the next level? Why did we need a generic subplot about the publisher wanting to have Bea’s stories appease the next generation? Why does Thomas have to be the human cartoon in both movies? Why can’t the movies make up their minds about whether or not the humans can understand the animals? But then again, we have a similar case with the “Garfield” comics, where at times Jon can understand him, while at other times, he can’t.
It does make sense when Bea warns the publisher not to have an American wins the rights to the book and develop it into a franchise. Why? Because Will Gluck, a New York City native, directed both movies. Even Benjamin gives the audience a quick smirk. So, this is basically the only smart thing a human character has said.
“Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway” has good intentions and its heart in the right place, but that only applies to the rabbits and not the humans.