Director Will Gluck has spent the seven years leading up to his Peter Rabbit sequel making two of the worst family films of this generation. Annie (2014) was a disgustingly autotuned, cringe-inducing embarrassment. It should be a black mark on the careers of all involved. His first Peter Rabbit film may be among the most mean spirited children’s films this viewer has ever seen. Beyond James Cordons, unbelievably annoying vocal delivery The films slapstick set pieces were delivered in an excruciating, bulling endorsing tone. Needless to say the prospect of the sequel filled this watcher with imminent dread.
As one of the first films to be delayed by COVID he was kind of hoping that this project would get shunted off to streaming. He would not have to worry about the surely terrible sequel stinking up cinemas for weeks on end. This critic should be so lucky. The film sat out the entire pandemic and was effectively the only marquee theatrical exclusive when cinemas reopened. Unlimited Card in hand this viewers sat down for what he assumed was going to be a hate-watch. Was that assumption correct?
Sort of. Peter Rabbit 2 is a very strange viewing experience. To make the sequel more bearable Gluck and his creative team have adopted a modestly more self-aware tone. Rose Byrnes Beatrix Potter stand-in character and Domhnell Gleason’s Thomas McGregor are now married. A lot of the sequel concerns the in-universe Potter books gaining interest from an American publisher played by David Oyelowo Cue lots of attempted gags about wanting to make these quintessentially English adventures seem hip and cool to an American audience. Well, the attempt at self-awareness is admirable the filmmakers seem to forget they’re making slapstick orientated kids film. Much as there is nothing wrong with Oyelowo’s performance his plot will fly over the head of all the under 10s in the audience. It certainly isn’t developed enough to gain anything other than mild curiosity from an adult.
Add in the sequels distinct focus on attempting an Ocean’s 11 riffs (Peter falling in with a group of heist bunny’s. ) You have a sequel where the antics take a distinct back seat. This does make proceedings objectively more bearable but simultaneously a lot less interesting. The first film may be a cinematic atrocity but a certain type of child will engage with and enjoy it. After seeing the sequel this viewing has no idea how the same child might feel about it. There is the distinct possibility they may be bored out of their skull. Similarly, this Green Day fan enjoyed a scene in which James Corden as CGI rabbit gets hit in the face with a suitcase as the soundtrack needle dropped Boulevard of Broken Dreams. No child will understand why this site was amusing to this watcher. For a true challenge, some filmmakers should attempt to play Jesus Of Suburbia in all its 9 minute 5 part glory in their family movie.
Peter Rabbit 2 was an incredibly strange viewing experience. It is distinctly more tolerable than the first film’s crimes against family entertainment. That said in choosing to be more self-aware of how soulless director Will Gluck’s work is the sequel may hold more appeal to begrudging adults than children. At the end of the day family movies, need to have a certain level of cross-generational appeal. In this case, the adult pandering screenplay is far too half baked to gain anything beyond grudging respect. With the distinct lack of slapstick set pieces, this time around the productions appeals to children may be significantly impacted. As horrible as the original effort was it at least had some distinctive sense of creative vision. In attempting to highlight how mercenary this endeavour wars the sequel appears to have lost all idea of who exactly it’s aimed at.