PETER RABBIT 2

Reviewed by GREG KING

Director: Will Gluck

Stars: Rose Byrne, Domhnall Gleeson, David Oyelowo, and voices of James Corden, Margot Robbie, Elizabeth Debicki, Lennie James, Ewen Leslie, Damon Herriman, Aimee Horne, Colin Moody.

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This is a sequel to Peter Rabbit, the 2018 mix of live action and animation that brought to life the enduring characters created by Beatrix Potter. Director Will Gluck returns, and he ramps up the stakes here, but somehow the film lacks the freshness and sense of innocence of the original.

Bea (Rose Byrne) and Thomas (Domhnall Gleeson) have got married, but Thomas still has a fractious relationship with the mischievous Peter (again voiced by James Corden). Bea finds her picture book inspired by the beautiful paintings of Peter and the farmyard animals has been selling well. Bea is approached by hotshot flamboyant publisher Nigel Basil-Jones (David Oyelowo, recently seen in Chaos Walking, etc) who has grand visions for her books, wanting to make it more contemporary. Bea wants to retain the simplicity of the stories and characters, but soon finds herself being seduced by the promises of lucrative opportunities. Basil-Jones suggests a series of books on each of the individual barnyard animals. He quibbles over two alternative titles for the book about Peter, and when Thomas suggests “The Bad Seed” Peter leaves in a huff, thinking that if he is being cast as a villain he may as well act like one.

Wandering the streets feeling sorry for himself he is befriended by the Fagin-like street wise Barnabas (voiced by comic Lennie James), an old friend of his father’s, who leads a gang of street urchins and thieves. Barnabas has grand plans to rob the local farmer’s market. He recruits the naive Peter into his gang, and Peter in turns recruits his fellow barnyard friends into the scheme, despite the misgivings of the wise cousin Benjamin (voiced by Colin Moody). But things do not go smoothly and as a result the animals are captured, locked up in an animal shelter and sold off to families across the country.

Thomas and Peter are forced to work together to rescue the animals. Ironically, this results in some daring action sequences in a brief montage that resembles one of Basil-Jones’ more ludicrous suggestions for the future directions of the Peter Rabbit series.

Gluck has written the script with Patrick Burleigh and exploits many of the familiar tropes of the heist movie and plays them for big laughs with plenty of slapstick humour. The film explores universal themes of family, father-son relationships, responsibility, the creative process, which grounds the material with a more emotional content.

Like the original film, Peter Rabbit 2 was shot in Sydney, and all the special effects work was done there as well. The CGI animation that brings the characters to life is again superb and seamlessly integrated into the live action. Gluck has again assembled a great vocal cast to bring the characters to life, many whom featured in the original. Corden voices Peter Rabbit, and as with the first film he is occasionally grating. Other vocal actors include Margot Robbie, who plays a dual role as the cute Flopsy as well as the narrator, Elizabeth Debicki, Aimee Horne replacing Daisy Ridley, Ewen Leslie, Damon Herriman. Oyelowo is a delight as the grasping but smooth-talking publisher who keeps overriding Bea’s suggestions and desire to retain the integrity of her creation.

Unlike the delightful Paddington 2 which was a superior sequel, Peter Rabbit 2 not quite as entertaining or as credible as the original. The antics of the animal seem more irritating here and the film lacks the cuteness factor of the original.

★★★

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