I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.
Preston Barta // Features Editor
PETER RABBIT 2: THE RUNAWAY
Rated PG, 92 minutes.
Director: Will Gluck
Cast: James Corden, Elizabeth Debicki, Margot Robbie, Aimee Horne, Domhnall Gleeson, Rose Byrne, David Oyelowo, Colin Moody, Lennie James, Rupert Degas, Ewen Leslie, Damon Herriman, and Hayley Atwell
The Sony Pictures Releasing film is now playing in theaters.
Whenever it comes to recommending family movies, 2018’s Peter Rabbit is easily among them for me. It was a film that could have been another forgettable talking-animal feature. But somehow, director Will Gluck, stars Rose Bryne and Domhnall Gleeson, and the fun, furry critters at the center gave it a classy touch, populated with heart and humor.
Its sequel, Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway, unfortunately, is nowhere near as grounded, often steering more toward cartoon antics and less original comedy. However, the continuation still provides wholesome entertainment for the family and delivers the single greatest laugh of 2021 cinema.
Once again directed by Gluck from a script written by Gluck and Patrick Burleigh, and based on the characters and tales of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter, The Runaway features returning stars Gleeson, Byrne, and voice cast members James Corden, Elizabeth Debicki, and Margot Robbie, to name a few.
We’re jumping back into the narrative about the titular, troublemaking rabbit (Corden) and his new, overbearing, inflexible father figure in Thomas (Gleeson). Peter is adjusting to his expanded family but is finding it difficult to shake his mischievous reputation. Anytime he sees that others are not following the rules, Peter intervenes but is always found in the wrong place at the wrong time (like Harry Potter in The Chamber of Secrets).
So, while Bea (Byrne) is trying to navigate the exploding popularity of her book, Peter is feeling like a lost soul. In hopes of discovering his purpose again, he takes to the city streets and meets a crew of the wrong sort (including Lennie James, Damon Herriman, and Rupert Degas). This band of criminals causes Peter to lean more into the troublemaking aspects of himself. However, maybe his true family will come together to bring him back down to earth.
The original Peter Rabbit found a nice balance of being an over-the-top movie with slapstick fun and an earnest story about family. The comedy was genuinely clever, whether it’s tapping into the thoughts a rooster may be having as it crows each morning to welcome the sun or the war games between Peter and Thomas. Peter Rabbit 2 certainly has its moments where it carries over that same kind of side-splitting energy—such as a fox getting into physical shape or Peter’s younger rabbit sister Cotton-Tail (Aimee Horne) discovering jelly beans. There’s so much to love and admire, especially the already teased about best laugh, which involves Thomas’ reaction to a deer.
At the same time, the comedy is inconsistent. It’ll veer off from time to time in a world more steeped in fantasy. Sequences involving hat tips to James Bond become too much and ask the audience to eject the idea of logic more than they may be willing. You’re waiting for Peter to interrupt a ridiculous scene to say it’s an elevated reality happening in a dream. We especially think this because the opening scene lays down the groundwork for that to happen more often. But it doesn’t. The film continues, and we’re left scratching our heads about how this tonally fits in with the first film.
Additionally, the sequel grabs for the low-hanging fruit, narratively speaking. You’ve seen enough sequels to know precisely where this will go before it starts, really. So, there are no true surprises. Although it’s nice to see David Oyelowo, an actor who deserves all the great parts, he becomes a standard character who you’ve seen one too many times.
Somewhere in this sequel exists further adventures on par with Paddington 2. It’s disappointing. But for what it is, rotten eggs and all, Peter Rabbit 2 remains a fluffy and cute tale about small things having enormous significance. And you just can’t argue with that message.