'Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway' Brings Postmodern Irony to Its Story of Cute Bunnies

Directed by Will Gluck

Starring Rose Byrne, Domhnall Gleeson, David Oyelowo, Elizabeth Debicki, Margot Robbie, James Corden

BY Rachel HoPublished Jul 9, 2021

Fluffy bunnies, chubby badgers and an all-in Domhnall Gleeson — if that's not a recipe for a fun family movie, what is? Peter Rabbit 2 is joyful, silly, and will surely be enjoyed by fans of the original.

We rejoin Peter (James Corden) and the McGregors as Bea (Rose Byrne) and Thomas (Gleeson) are settling into married life. Bea's first Peter Rabbit story is doing well and Thomas and Peter and company have come to an understanding and divided the garden between them.

As Bea's success grows, a charming publisher, Nigel Basil-Jones (David Oyelowo), proposes she modernizes her stories for a wider audience, including characterizing each bunny. While Thomas becomes wary of Nigel, Peter struggles with the naughty, bad bunny persona given to him. As he walks around the town lost in self-reflection, he befriends an older rabbit who introduces him to a gang of thieving city animals.

With his disappointment about how his family views him and the acceptance from his newfound friends, Peter is caught between two worlds. But when his family is put at risk, Peter works with Thomas to save them at all costs.

Like its predecessor, Peter Rabbit 2 is a live action/CGI hybrid. The animals are designed to perfection — they are somehow both very realistic and cartoonishly adorable. The wild, slapstick comedy stylings of Gleeson bridge the gap between the real world and the storybook nature of the film really well. Gleeson is a standout in this movie, delivering multiple laugh-out-loud moments due in part to his ability to go all-out.

American director Will Gluck fills the sequel with tongue-in-cheek self-awareness with fourth wall breaks and self-deprecating dialogue. At one point, Bea expresses her concern that her stories will be compromised: "I'd be spinning in my grave if it was ever adapted into some sassy hip-fest, purely for commercial gain, probably by an American."

The jury's still out on whether creators get a pass by acknowledging self-referential theatre (see: Bo Burnham: Inside), but in the context of a fun family film with cute woodland creatures, it's hard to look too deeply into this.

Peter Rabbit 2 delivers what we would expect from a Peter Rabbit sequel made in the 21st century. Purists devoted to the original 23-book series may take issue with the interpretation, but these Peter Rabbit films are for a new generation of children who can still enjoy the storybooks. It's family fun and perfect for the start of the summer season.

Peter Rabbit 2 is out in theatres and on VOD.

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