PETER RABBIT 2

★★★

THE REBEL RABBIT IS BACK

THEATRICAL REVIEW
By Chris dos Santos
24th March 2021

'Peter Rabbit 2' - along with 'No Time to Die' and 'A Quiet Place Part II' - became among the first films to indicate how much the COVID-19 pandemic was going to affect the film industry. While more so with Bond, Marvel and 'Fast and Furious 9', these billion-dollar franchises will continue to be delayed, but the rebel rabbit was also continuously delayed, even after 'Trolls World Tour' and 'The Witches' (in countries where they received theatrical releases), 'The War With Grandpa' and 'The Croods: A New Age' proved that family films were the only thing making any kind of money at box office, 'Peter Rabbit 2' still hopped around its released date. Well now, just over a year from its original 19th March 2020 release date, the mysterious making rabbit is back.

Picking up after 'Peter Rabbit', Peter (James Corden, 'Cats', 'The Prom') along with Benjamin (Colin Moody), Flopsy (Margot Robbie, 'Birds of Prey', 'Mary Queen of Scots'), Mopsy (Elizabeth Debicki, 'The Great Gatsby', 'Tenet') and Cottontail (Aimee Horne, replacing Daisy Ridley) are enjoying the success of their story been turned into a book by Bea (Rose Byrne, 'Irresistible', 'Instant Family'), as well as now sharing the garden with Thomas McGregor (Domhnall Gleeson, 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens', 'Goodbye Christopher Robin'). The book is so successful that they have been approached by Nigel Basil-Jones (David Oyelowo, 'A Wrinkle in Time', 'Selma'), the head of a publishing company who wants to help making the rabbits into a successful franchise. But with all this success, Peter still feels like he can't do anything right and is still getting in trouble, so he runs away and turns to a life of theft.

'PETER RABBIT 2' TRAILER

Just as the first one surprised us with its wacky hijinks and heartfelt message, so too does 'Peter Rabbit 2' - but with a little less heart. It's a really fun enjoyable film, and that's it. It's not a 'Paddington', but you certainly won't leave miserable. The film is heavy-handed in its message but the actors - the standouts being Gleeson and Byrne, and in the voice cast Debicki and Robbie - are just having a blast here. The fun they are all having making this silly film shines through on the screen.

In the wrong hands, 'Peter Rabbit' could have been a painful sit - and yes, for some it will be - but for it to be this enjoyable and reach its target demographic makes it a success. Is it for me? No - but for kids, it's a hit!

The marketing for 'Peter Rabbit 2' showed us many different plots, one with what the film actually is; Peter "running" away because he keeps getting in trouble. There was another that makes the plot seemingly Peter looking for lost members of his family ... which isn't even close - he meets someone who knew his Dad, but that was by accident. The last plot the trailers hinted at was Peter feeling left out because the McGregors are playing to start a family. While the film does start to set this up, it changes tact at every chance it gets to make that the plot. It's strange to me that for a plot as simple as this sequel is, it got teased with so many different angles by the film's marketing team.

It does amaze me that with a more politicly correct culture - especially with parents - that films like 'Peter Rabbit' are okay for their kids. It's a surprisingly violent film - look, there's no blood, but there's a lot of punching and throwing people around. These got big laughs from all ages, and yes, the slapstick is very funny, but it's surprising to me that the level of brutality is acceptable.

In the wrong hands, 'Peter Rabbit' could have been a painful sit, but for it to be this enjoyable and reach its target demographic makes it a success.

The biggest issue with the film is the publishing subplot; you can tell every beat it's going to hit. They want Bea's book more "modern", have them surfing and going to space, but she'll learn to stay true to herself and stick it to the man. But - big shock - 'Peter Rabbit 2' isn't a nuanced film. We get winks to the camera about things like "they better not sell out the British rabbits and make them into a big Hollywood film", and "my life is simple on the farm, we don't go skiing or jump of planes" and then cut to them doing just that. It is funny to see rabbits riding skis, but the film doesn't try to be smart about it. 'Peter Rabbit 2' is exactly everything the film sets out to send up: taking this popular beloved British character and make it American. You're not Disney and this isn't 'Frozen' or 'Moana' - just be a slapstick film with Peter Rabbit; you don't have to wink at us. At the end of the day, 'Peter Rabbit 2' wasn't delayed so it could be viewed on the big screen for artistic purposes, it was for box office revenue.

The big elephant (or rabbit, in this case) in the room, of course, is James Cordon - this is what he was made for, he can stay here, he is fine here. They also try to make jokes like "oh my god, is my voice annoying?", and yes, it is, but I can handle it here, rather than having him stinking up the screen in things like 'The Prom'.

I also find it hilarious that, outside of a few cast members, this big screen adaption of the British icon has little production in the UK. Both the first film and this sequel were filmed in Sydney and all the CGI was done here, and the film is directed by an American. It's somewhat disappointing that it couldn't at least have been filmed in the UK.

I hope 'Peter Rabbit 2' is successful; the fact it was one of those first three films pulled due to the pandemic and is now being released offers a small sense of normalcy for the film industry. If you liked the first film, you'll get a chuckle out of this one. It's typical sequel fanfare, and an enjoyable watch for kids this Easter.

It is a tad funny that the Australian Easter school holiday line-up is 'Peter Rabbit 2', 'Tom and Jerry' and even 'Raya and the Last Dragon' - a collection of "violent" family films.

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