‘Peter Rabbit 2’ overview: Cute and meta, sequel turns to crime

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Within the books and the primary movie primarily based on them, “Peter Rabbit” and mates tackle farmers and typically different animals. The sequel, “Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway,” takes on … itself?

Books and movies are, after all, completely different animals. And that’s OK. The second live-action/computer-animation hybrid film within the sequence continues that evolution away from the light English countryside really feel of Beatrix Potter‘s writings in a meta means, winking all of the whereas. Curiously, it admits up entrance what it’s doing — updating beloved materials for contemporary, industrial functions — asserting it from the mouth of a pseudo-antagonist.

The sequel finds Peter’s people (Rose Byrne as Bea, the fashionable stand-in for Potter, and Domhnall Gleeson as Thomas, previously the critters’ foe) married and residing largely in concord with the animals. There’s stress between Thomas and Peter (voiced by James Corden), nonetheless, because the uptight novice farmer can’t convey himself to belief the rapscallion rabbit. Tremendous-successful London writer Nigel Primary-Jones (David Oyelowo) desires to take Bea’s charming writings about Peter and firm to the following stage, inflicting some friction between Bea and Thomas. In the meantime, Peter falls in with a foul crowd: a gang of metropolis animals led by unhealthy bunny Barnabus (voiced by Lennie James of the “Strolling Useless” franchise) planning an audacious heist … of a farmers market.

“The Runaway” could be very a lot the sequel it warns you about; it’s the bigger-and-bolder follow-up Nigel (standing in for Hollywood studio sorts) says the primary entry wants. Nigel pitches notions — T-shirts, surfboards, Peter-as-Dangerous Seed — that would appear absurd to lovers of the books, whose gentility is maybe their most memorable attribute. Regardless of the rabbits’ and squirrels’ slim escapes, their adventures would possibly finish with a pleasant cup of tea — one thing instantly lampooned within the movie as not the way in which issues are accomplished in a industrial universe. A part of the gag is that we all know these foolish concepts are precisely what is going to come to go, so we roll with it. Nonetheless, hedging the guess that we received’t thoughts spending a lot of the movie on a metropolis crime spree as an alternative of constant Peter’s adventures within the nation as a result of they’ve proclaimed their intentions is barely partially efficient.

It’s largely a slapstick affair (phrases additionally not more likely to be music to followers of the books) with solely a handful of behavioral gags — one with a rooster considering his life’s function is especially memorable. There aren’t that many precise jokes within the movie, for higher or worse. The dialogue isn’t precisely intelligent, although the self-aware musings are sometimes amusing, akin to Peter noting his personal leanings towards “cartoon violence.”

The people’ moments, nonetheless, depart a bitter style of bickering behind. The at all times watchable Byrne doesn’t have a lot to work with this time round however makes hay with what she will be able to (akin to when she reveals her grasp plan for her writings). Sadly, for a lot of the movie, Gleeson’s Thomas is performed on the brittle aspect. Moderately than being an insecure bumbler with whom we sympathize, Thomas comes throughout as a shrill, jealous whiner. Oyelowo is meant to be a mesmerizing, silver-tongued satan; they didn’t fairly get there both.

With its human relations a bit dicey, the film lives or dies by the cuteness of its CG animals. Luckily, it in all probability won’t ever cease hitting the lovable button inside us merely to see rabbits scurry-hopping with earnest little faces. The cinematic know-how’s progress is exceptional. The creatures are photoreal, and the filmmakers make the smart selection of not anthropomorphizing an excessive amount of — these are bunny, pig and cat faces with delicate tweaks to extend expression (no “Cats” catastrophe right here). In that, paradoxically, they’re maybe truest to the books. However with the various textures of fur, the shadows and light-weight play, the moisture within the eyes, the Animal Logic animation/visible results staff outdid itself.

There you will have it — the meta stuff for adults; the cuteness and slapstick for the children. The filmmakers’ guess that audiences will forgive the modernizations and neglect the unique is bolstered by the truth that the primary “Peter Rabbit” movie grossed about seven instances its reported price range.

‘Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway’

Rated: PG for some impolite humor and motion.

Operating time: 1 hour, 33 minutes.

Enjoying: In broad launch June 11.

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