Peter Rabbit 2 makes its weak predecessor a strength

Film | Jorge Ignacio Castillo | July 20, 2021

Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway
Theatres, Digital & VOD
3 out of 5

At a meta level, you have to have seen the first Peter Rabbit movie to fully enjoy the second. See, in the original, instead of rooting for the title character you hope Peter becomes stew. The once-beloved literary figure was unbearable thanks to an out-of-tune script and a grating vocal performance by James Corden.

Amazingly, Peter Rabbit 2 turns the franchise (is Peter Rabbit a franchise now? Strange times) around by acknowledging the first film’s failure and tackling the main character’s flaws head on.

After Peter’s failure to break up farmer McGregor (Domhnall Gleeson) and Bea (Rose Byrne) in the previous episode, we reencounter the couple happily married. Bea has started to write illustrated stories about her rabbits (in case you haven’t figured it out, Bea stands for Beatrix Potter). In her books, Peter comes across as naughty but goodhearted when push comes to shove.

Enter corporate interests in the form of the suave Nigel Basil-Jones (David Oyelowo), who pressures Bea to change her light, picturesque little books into product-placement nightmares with Peter as a straight-up villain. Worse, the rabbit believes the depiction is accurate and begins acting the part, joining a gang of ne’er-do-well critters bent on filling their pantries with stolen produce.

Besides turning the original film’s weaknesses into strengths (except for James Corden’s voice, there’s no way to fix that), the movie has a more interesting message for kids than your standard “be yourself” or “family matters most” (oh, wait, that’s F9): you’re not defined by what others think of you, but what you think of yourself.

A note to parents: Peter Rabbit 2 is absurdist enough to be tolerable. Who knew foxes doing CrossFit would be so funny?