Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway Review: A pointless sequel that barely makes an effort
The sequel to 2018’s live-action adaptation of Peter Rabbit, The Runaway, is a pointless sequel that’s only trying to get the basics done and do nothing more.
The film brings us back to Bea (Rose Byrne) and Thomas’ (Domhnall Gleeson) farm after they get married and now take care of the mischievous Peter Rabbit (voiced by James Corden) and his other animal companions. As Bea’s book about Peter and his friends grows in popularity, she’s offered a book deal from a greedy publisher head named Nigel (David Oyelowo) that wants to change her story elements – including making Peter a “bad seed.” This, along with Thomas constantly blaming him for things that go wrong, makes Peter believe that he can’t be seen as good and he ends up running schemes with a rabbit thief named Barnabas (voiced by Lennie James), who knew Peter’s father, and his crew. However, as they work towards pulling off a big heist, Peter ends up ensnaring everyone into a dangerous plot that could destroy their entire family.
The main story thread of Peter hanging out on the wrong side of the tracks with Barnabas actually isn’t that bad since it’s pretty well built throughout and has strong character moments. It’s easy enough to empathize with Peter’s feelings of feeling misunderstood as he’s blamed by Thomas for things he tries to prevent and everyone, even his animal friends, align him with being a bad seed aside from Bea. He’s definitely a victim of being in the wrong place at the wrong time and it makes it easy to understand why he would go along with Barnabas and his band of thieves. With Peter missing his father, Barnabas slides right into his life as a father figure and it’s a fair way to have Peter lean heavier into his mischievousness.
Their antics together have fun moments and provide some good comedy at times. There’s also a nice twist in the story that’s definitely predictable but gives some solid backstory to Barnabas, touches on Peter’s emotional vulnerability, and shows there’s no honor among thieves. This creates a nice moment between Peter and Thomas that brings them closer and fleshes out some of their issues. Within this main thread, there’s a really solid story here that does a lot of good for its characters. However, everything around it is just sub-par or just plain bad.
Frankly, most of the other animal characters outside of Peter and Barnabas aren’t doing anything of relevance and mostly just spouting jokes that usually fall flat. The humor in this film never really lands outside of a few moments and the “effects” used for Thomas flopping and flailing in the distance are super distracting and look awful. Everything surrounding Bea and her book publishing is super boring, typical, and isn’t something that kids will really care about. It’s just your usual story of commercialization making something lose its essence and meaning or losing yourself as you become more and more famous. It’s a totally pointless storyline that doesn’t go anywhere special and just constantly showcases the superior animation of the original story books that I really wish these films had more of.
Throughout the entire viewing experience, you can really feel like the film is almost begging for your attention. Its music is so painfully on the nose that when Green Day or some other well-known band’s voice come on, you can instantly feel how annoyingly obnoxious it is. The CG animal look is still fine, but as said before, pales in comparison to the moments of animation that really evoke the wholesomeness of the books that’s mostly absent from these films. There’s even a moment where the film attempts to recognize its shortcomings through a self-aware joke that speaks to how unremarkable this film is. Just because you reference how mishandled your source material is, doesn’t make what you’re doing any better or any less of a clear cash grab.
Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway is a totally bland sequel that presents a possibly strong main story thread that actually works to do something good for its titular rabbit, but unfortunately surrounds it with mediocre story beats, character moments, and comedy that leaves little to be desired for any age.