"Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway" stars James Corden, Rose Byrne, Domhnall Gleeson, David Oyelowo, Elizabeth Debicki, Margot Robbie, and Colin Moody. Released on June 11, 2021, the film has Peter Rabbit running away from his garden home.
The film was directed by Will Gluck, who also directed films such as "Easy A" and "Friends with Benefits", and it is a sequel to the 2018 family film, "Peter Rabbit", which was also directed by Gluck. It is also based on the stories of Peter Rabbit created by Beatrix Potter. Easter may be over, but that doesn't mean the bunny can't come out to play. This weekend brings us another round of animal-friendly fun this summer after starting out rough last weekend with Spirit's underwhelming return to the big screen. This time, it's the return of everyone's favorite troublemaking rabbit. "Peter Rabbit" is one of the films that people either love or hate. Families loved it because of its charm, colorful humor, and talking CGI animals. At the same time, people who read the books despise it due to the film's changes to the source material, including the characterization of Peter himself. As usual, the box office totals outweighed the negativity, resulting in Hollywood digging up a sequel to that live-action/animated hit. However, it took a while for it to arrive in theaters because of the pandemic forcing the studio to delay it multiple times. Now that we're one step closer to freedom, we are finally able to see the mischief-making rabbit back on the big screen. As someone who hasn't read the "Peter Rabbit" books, I thought the first film was pretty good, even though it fell into its usual trappings from the other family-friendly live-action/CGI hybrids. So it's no surprise that I was looking forward to watching its follow-up because of it. Was it a worthy sequel that keeps Peter's legacy hopping along, or was it something that'll leave me hopping mad? Let's find out.
The film once again follows Peter (Corden), Flopsy (Robbie), Mopsy (Debicki), Cottontail (Aimee Horne), and Benjamin Bunny (Moody) as they accept their former rival Thomas McGregor (Gleeson) into their lives. Their owner Bea (Byrne) has opened a business making children's books based on Peter and his friends. Although, Peter isn't taking a liking to the books portraying him as a naughty rabbit. When he sees that the books and his "bad seed" personality will be part of a marketing plan helmed by Bea's publisher Nigel (Oyelowo), Peter decides to run away, hence the film's title. He soon gets caught in a series of mishaps when he meets Barnabas (Lennie James), an older rabbit who claims to know Peter's father. Like its predecessor, "The Runaway" contains a simplistic plot and several attempts at kid-friendly comedy, both physical and dialogue. It also maintained the main character's personality as a mischievous rabbit who often gets himself and others into trouble and eventually learns from his mistakes. Those things alone are enough to drive away people who have an extreme fondness for the source material and dislike the 2018 film. However, those elements also helped "Peter Rabbit 2" become a decent follow-up that offers plenty of heart and fluffy CGI animals for the kids to enjoy. Sure, it's just as flawed as the original, but that doesn't mean I didn't have a fun time watching it. It had a few moments in its story and characters that I liked a bit more than the first film, as well as moments that made the sequel a small hop backward. In other words, I liked it just as much as I did with its predecessor, but for different reasons. One of those reasons is the story. "The Runaway" delivered another by-the-numbers plot that didn't offer any surprises and depth in its narrative and characters, especially Barnabas, one of the film's new characters. I might even say that it's as simplistic as picking tomatoes out of the garden. But it's a by-the-numbers plot that some adults, including me, might enjoy more than others. The story featured tons of cartoonish charm and fun action that families would come to expect from a film about a talking rabbit. More importantly, it continued Peter's comedic coming-of-age journey to become a better person, or a better rabbit in this case, with an endearing message about appreciating one's self without letting others tell them who they are. I still believe that some people are misunderstanding what these films are going for in terms of Peter himself. They only made him like this to teach kids the importance of caring for others rather than themselves and learning from the blunders they made to become respectable adults. It is something that I would gladly defend until the day I die or the day I get mugged by a die-hard "Peter Rabbit" fan. Whichever works. Along with its predictability, the story suffered a bit from its main human characters, most notably Thomas McGregor, played by Gleeson. While I thought Gleeson was serviceable in his role, his character only served as a test dummy for slapstick and nothing else. Those moments made me laugh a couple of times, but I can admit that they can be a bit far-fetched for some viewers, mainly when the film used CGI for some of Gleeson's cartoony stunts. Rose Byrne and David Oyelowo also did well in their roles as Bea and Nigel, respectively, but the real stars are the voice cast for the animals, the film's primary focus. James Corden once again did a decent job voicing the title character and providing some tolerable bits of humor. He can be a tad annoying at times, yes, but it was overshadowed by the amount of appeal he delivered for his character's cunningness and caring ways. The rest of the voice cast, ranging from Robbie as Flopsy to Lennie James as Barnabas, was just as delightful and entertaining as they were in the first film. The humor was also the best part of "Peter Rabbit 2", in my opinion. In addition to its physical comedy, the film included plenty of clever meta jokes that gleefully poke fun at Peter's behavior in the first film and the obsession with "modernizing" classic source materials for a new generation. It's the sense of irony that allows viewers to laugh at themselves rather than irritate or criticize them.
Overall, like its furry protagonist, "Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway" is a troublesome yet charismatic sequel that'll warm the hearts of people who enjoyed its predecessor. It maintained some of the strengths that made "Peter Rabbit" a delightful watch for families, but it still kept some of the weaknesses that made the detractors furious in the first place. Regardless of what the haters will say about my opinion, I was pleasantly entertained by this family-friendly follow-up due to its cast, humor, and heartwarming messages. It won't be for everyone, but it is a solid choice to see for those who need some goofy laughs and genuine rabbit charm this summer.