Peter Rabbit turns Oliver Twist in sequel
Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway hits cinemas in Luxembourg this week, and parents will be wondering if it’s worth going to see it. As sequels go, this is as good, if not better, than the first film, but if you didn’t like that, then it’s more of the same, only with an even more clever plotline and plenty of sarcastic and slapstick British humour.
Family is at the heart of the movie as it was in the first one. To recap, the original film found Domhnall Gleeson (nephew to the original Mr McGregor from the Potter book), inheriting his uncle’s country cottage and garden, just as he is dismissed from his job. An uptight perfectionist, he arrives to find the local animals (led by Peter Rabbit voiced by James Corden), have trashed the house and ransacked the garden. Just like his mean uncle who ate Peter’s dad in a pie, he sets about rabbit-proofing his house and garden, but also falls for his neighbour Bea, played by Rose Byrne, who wins his heart and changes his mind about rabbits.
Peter Rabbit 2 begins with Bea being swept up in a big publishing contract to convert her original book and paintings of Peter and his family into a best-selling kids blockbuster, with a promise of fame and fortune. There’s some fantastic insight into how manipulative publishers of children’s books are with authors, demanding ridiculous plot lines, which sees Bea having to recreate her country rabbits as wearing crop tops and high top trainers whilst visiting outer space. David Oyelowo is all charm and manipulation as the head publisher, playing Nigel Basil-Jones brilliantly.
It’s a timely reminder that kids film and literature go to great lengths with fantastical plot lines involving other worlds, on the assumption that a lettuce patch in a garden is no longer considered a setting that children would find entertaining.
It’s also a bad seed turns good story with an Oliver Twist style plot, which puts Peter and not McGregor at the centre this time, but it keeps that essential family message about not expecting too much from your children, but allowing them to develop their own identities and learn their own lessons.
Peter runs off in the big smoke (London) and befriends a motley crew of escaped and discarded pets living on the streets through scams, which of course involve some excellent farcical set pieces such as raiding a suburban fridge and being chased by the pet-hating mother, to playing whack-a-mole in the recycling bins to escape the vermin catchers.
There’s also a great heist worthy of an Ocean’s Eleven plot, and a secondary thread involving Flopsy and Mopsy creating their own individual identities, that any parent of a teen will thoroughly appreciate.
The plot is fast moving but not so incredible, off the wall, or downright weird (as was the case in the recent follow-up movie The Croods: A New Age), that children won’t follow what’s going on. And it’s not just a bunch of vignettes loosely stitched together – there’s a solid plotline and a spectacular twist in the final furlong, with a nice spoof that intertwines with the other plotline about Bea’s book.
The jokes are good if a bit cheesy, and James Corden’s voice can get on your nerves occasionally, but there’s plenty of clever and unpredictable humour. And of course the cute rabbits also walk on their hind legs, wear clothes and talk like teens, so you will need to suspend your disbelief for that at least.
Gleeson and Byrne do a great job of acting next to animated characters (that are presumably not there during the filming), and have some of the best lines too. In addition to the growing up and appreciating your family message, there’s also a nice one on relationships and handling a change to your life plans or career. You’ll definitely leave the cinema smiling, feeling good about life, appreciating your family, and maybe even have a soft spot for those fluffy, long-eared critters otherwise known as rabbits.