Peter Rabbit 2: a sequel, and an upgrade

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The second Peter Rabbit film is funny, and a notable improvement on the first: here’s our review.

Count me amongst the many who had problems with the original Peter Rabbit film, a family trip out to the movies that left my youngest child not unreasonably questioning why Peter himself really wasn’t very nice. I can’t confess to having particularly high hopes for the sequel, but I found this a really pleasant surprise.

There’s a few reasons why it works a lot better than the first film. Firstly, the tone is more mischievous than edging towards unpleasant, and that’s a lot easier to get on board with. But also, co-writer and director Will Gluck has broadened the focus of the film away from Peter himself, and made it into more of an ensemble piece.

The basics, then. Lead humans Thomas and Bea – Domhnall Gleeson and Rose Byrne – are now married, and still surrounded by rabbits. But the likes of Peter (James Corden), Flopsy (Margot Robbie), Mopsy (Elizabeth Debicki) and Cottontail (Aimee Horne) this time find themselves out of the garden and in the reasonably big city. There, Barnabus (voiced by Lennie Jones, in splendid dulcet form) threatens to lead them all astray.

Chaos, as you might expect, ensues.

Ordinarily, the cliché of the Hollywood sequel going bigger has a habit of working against the film in question. In the case of Peter Rabbit 2, I’d suggest it’s quite the opposite. There’s a broader ensemble of characters, slightly less focus on Peter (again, which I think is to the film’s favour), and a wider story to explore.

There’s a further trump card with the introduction of David Oyelowo as Nigel Basil-Jones, a publisher trying to take Bea’s tales of rabbit action and making them huge and mainstream. He, frankly, is a real delight, but he’s not alone. Gleeson proves as adept at performing physical comedy as Gluck is at directing it, and my young co-reviewer loudly guffawed a couple of times for good measure. That didn’t happen with the first film, by way of comparison.

I liked this. It’s got a little bit of the flavour of the Paddington films this time round I think, although those particular movies still sit on a very high platform, seemingly unreachable by anyone else. Yet I found Peter Rabbit 2 nonetheless enjoyable fun and a real upgrade on the first film. I still think that the character of Peter himself is the big weakness, but given there’s plenty of others getting their spot in the limelight, that’s a far lesser problem this time around. Recommended.

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