Peter Rabbit (2018) & Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway (2021). Film review of the Beatrix Potter inspired movies

Peter Rabbit and friends
Standard

Comedy

Peter Rabbit

1 Star/Awful/Give this one a miss

Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway

2 stars film review fair passes the time

Film review by Jason Day of Peter Rabbit and Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway, part-animated comedies about the adventures of a group of rabbits, based on the books by Beatrix Potter.

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Synopsis

The life of order obsessed Harrods employee Thomas (Domhnall Gleeson) is turned upside down when he inherits of a house in the country that is also home to a family of rabbits, led by the rambunctious Peter (voiced by James Corden). They insist on eating the prized vegetables he is growing, leading to an epic battle of wills between them. Caught in the middle is Thomas’ pretty neighbour Bea (Rose Byrne), an artist who is oblivious to the disruption they cause.

In part 2, Peter runs away after an argument with Thomas and becomes friends with criminal bunny Barnabas (Lennie James) who is intent on stealing a prized cache of sweets from a farmers’ market.

Review, by @Reelreviewer

Beatrix Potter must be spinning in her grave at the modern, knockabout pratfall comedy styling writer/director Will Gluck has employed in his Peter Rabbit flicks.

He must have got a sense of that, either from the spirit of the woman herself or from reading some of the mixed reviews that greeted part one of his ‘pottering about’, when approaching the sequel because the laughs in the most recent are sometimes actually funny.

Part one is such an irritating movie. The kids will probably love it’s frantic, frenzied mix of panto physical comedy and parents may appreciate the (just about detectable) life lesson moralising.

But it was just noise to me. Blah, blah and wah wah with none of the important haha.

Pity poor Gleeson and Byrne, actors of considerable talent and standing I admire for their work in (him) Anna Karenina (2012) and Frank (2014) and (her) Troy (2004) and Bridesmaids (2011), but here are humiliated as they ‘slum it’.

Byrne is lucky to only need to appear nauseatingly sweet and twee and clueless, but Gleeson has to put up and shut up with a really thankless, shitty role (although, I’m sure the paycheck helped him get over that).

At one point in the first film, Byrne states she could see herself falling for Gleeson, which is completely unbelievable as the man is so odious and snobbish and set up in direct contrast and contradiction to her character. Why would she so willingly ‘trade down’?!

Still what do I know, as it still went on to make an impressive $330m at the international box office.

Harrods don’t exactly come across as the most sympathetic of employers in the first film. Gleeson is sacked on the spot after a minor altercation in an otherwise spotless career, despite his employer suspecting he has mental health issues.

In part two – which I’ll make clear from the outset, is a hell of an improvement on its forbear – we do away with dodgy bosses and instead have greedy publishers intent on merchandising and ‘storyfying’ to death Byrne’s books about Peter and the rabbits for maximum profit and for a modern audience.

Byrne’s character is called Bea – yes, just like the author! – and she has conversations with nasty book man David Oyelowo saying that she doesn’t want to sign up to anything too modern by an American because it might make her spin in her grave!

It’s because of self-referential piss taking like this and the fact that the jokes in this movie are actually funny that I liked this much more than part one and I’m sure the kids out there will love it, too.

Also, it isn’t every day you see a rabbit bouncing off the walls on a sugar high.

Cast & credits

Director: Will Gluck. 1 hr 35 min/95 mins. Columbia Pictures et al.

Producers: Will Gluck. (Part 2: Gluck and Zareh Nalbandian).
Writers: Rob Lieber, Will Gluck. (Part 2: Gluck and Patrick Burleigh).
Camera: Peter Menzies Jr.
Music: Dominic Lewis.
Sets: Roger Ford.

Domhnall Gleeson, Rose Byrne, James Corden, Sam Neil, Sia, Margot Robbie, Colin Moody, Elizabeth Debicki, Daisy Ridley, Mariane Jean Baptiste. Part 1 only: Daisy Ridley.

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