BAXTER — Move over, Bugs, because there’s another talking bunny in town.
“Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway” was delayed more than a year from being released theatrically because of the coronavirus pandemic but finally made its way onto the big screen this month.
The 90-minute adventure-comedy now in theaters is the PG-rated sequel to the 2018 family-friendly animated hit that reportedly grossed seven times its original budget.
“Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway” picks up where the original movie left off, so it would do well to have watched the first, but it’s not necessary to enjoy the fluffy, furry adventures of the rabbits.
Peter and his animal friends and family have reached a kind of begrudging truce with Thomas McGregor, who inherited an English countryside manor and its bountiful garden.
McGregor, played by Domhnall Gleeson as a vexed and uptight chap, marries Bea, a motherly, kind-hearted aspiring children’s book author and illustrator, played by Rose Byrne.
Late-night talk show host James Corden lends his voice as Peter Rabbit, the supposedly mischievous ne’er-do-well that McGregor blames, rightly or wrongly, for a lot of things.
Bea’s book takes off and becomes a bestseller, attracting the attention of Nigel Basil-Jones, a powerhouse publisher played with charisma by David Oyelowo. He sees a future and money to be made by franchising Bea’s work based on Peter and his animal friends’ antics in the country.
Basil-Jones convinces the McGregor family to visit him in the big city where he continues to suggest revisions to Bea’s simple characters and settings to appeal to what he thinks is a broader market, such as featuring the rabbits in space or on holiday on a beach with ukuleles.
Among the market-driven changes the publisher suggests is labeling Peter and his country cousin Benjamin; and his sisters Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail with certain characteristics — among them branding Peter to prospective audiences as “the bad seed.”
Feeling misunderstood and unloved, Peter strikes out on his own in the big city, where he encounters a true bad seed in the form of a grizzled rabbit named Barnabas. Barnabas takes under his wing the impressionable young rabbit, who looks upon the elder as a surrogate father.
In fact, during the depths of Peter’s despair and before his chance encounter with the mysterious Barnabas, Peter walks the grubby streets of the big city as the Green Day classic “Boulevard Of Broken Dreams” plays forlornly with a humorous kind of self-awareness.
Barnabas introduces Peter to his scheming and thieving street crew composed of an old mouse, Samuel Whiskers, who digresses at every turn; Tom Kitten, who threatens those he dislikes; and Tom’s sister, Mittens, the planner of their cons and escapades.
The motley crew set their sights on the farmers market and plan a heist so elaborately complicated and fun, it would make the crew of “Ocean’s Eleven” and its star George Clooney proud.
There is even a third-act action-adventure montage that almost puts the most thrilling James Bond scenes to shame (and would almost make me forget why most of the animals in “Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway” are wearing tops and not, modestly, bottoms.)
Peter must now decide whether to leave his rural life behind and join the crew who have adopted him like family in a way he believes the McGregors would never do, especially if a baby is on the way, or whether to remain true to his roots and appreciate the family he already has.
The 3D live-action computer-animated motion picture from Sony Pictures Animation was directed by Will Gluck, who co-wrote the screenplay based on author Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit stories.
“Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway” holds a 67% approval rating among critics and a 90% approval rating among audiences at Rotten Tomatoes, a review-aggregation website for film and television.
The consensus from the audience at RottenTomatoes.com: “Cute and energetic enough for kids but funny enough for parents — and grandparents! — this sequel offers colorful fun for the whole family.”