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4K Ultra HD Review: Peter Rabbit 2

August 31, 2021

By John Corrado

★★½ (out of 4)

A followup to the 2018 film Peter Rabbit, which served as a modernized adaptation of Beatrix Potter’s classic books, Peter Rabbit 2 is a bigger in scope and more self-aware sequel. It also addresses some of the problems of the first one (which I still kinda liked, by the way).

This sequel sees the return of the mischievous Peter Rabbit (James Cordon), along with his sisters Flopsy (Margot Robbie), Mopsy (Elizabeth Debicki) and Cotton Tail (Aimee Horne), his cousin Benjamin Bunny (Colin Moody), and a variety of old and new animal friends.

The story begins with the wedding of artist Bea (Rose Byrne) and farmer Thomas MacGregor (Domhnall Gleeson), who has reluctantly agreed to a truce with Peter Rabbit for stealing his vegetables. A stand-in for Beatrix Potter herself, Bea is now a successful children’s book author and illustrator, whose self-published tales of Peter Rabbit and his friends have become a bit of a sensation around town.

Thomas and Bea, and their whole rabbit family, get pulled into the big city for a meeting when Bea gets approached by a publisher named Nigel Basil-Jones (David Oyelowo), who is interested in publishing her work. Nigel is hellbent on commercializing her book to the point that it is basically unrecognizable from the original (rabbits in space!), and turning it into a franchise with Peter as the hip, sarcastic villain of the series.

This causes Peter to have an existential crisis of realizing that he is thought of as the bad guy, which leads him to meet new character Barnabas (Lennie Jones), a streetwise bunny and former friend of his father who gets him involved in stealing food for a rogue’s gallery of other creatures. From here, Peter Rabbit 2 branches off into being sort of a heist movie, complete with freeze frames and title cards to introduce the characters.

The film is still too hyper and manic to fully do justice to the gentleness of Potter’s original stories. But Peter Rabbit 2 at least has a self-awareness to it, and seems fully in tune with its own selling out. The film acknowledges that these rabbits aren’t supposed to be hip, modern creatures who get caught up in high speed boat chases, but, now that you mention it… The film plays out like this, winking and nodding to the fact that it is taking major liberties with Potter’s work, and then doing it anyway. Cynical, maybe, but also kind of clever.

Director and co-screenwriter Will Gluck, who also made the first one, brings an anarchic spirit to Peter Rabbit 2 that keeps it moving from one scene to the next. It’s a bit of a throw everything at the wall to see what sticks sort of film, which you could argue is all wrong for an adaptation of Potter’s work, but that’s also kinda the point. The film is selling out, and constantly apologizing for it. It’s a deconstruction of the first film in a lot of ways. It serves as more of a meta critique of the commercialization of Potter’s work, through the not-so-subtle storyline about Nigel threatening the integrity of Bea’s art.

In terms of live action-animation hybrids where fuzzy CG animals from British children’s books interact with real actors onscreen, the first film was no Paddington, and this one is no Paddington 2. Not all of the jokes land equally well, and there is also a running gag about Peter’s voice being annoying that will resonate with those increasingly irked by Cordon, but is also, well, kind of annoying. But Peter Rabbit 2 is still a fairly entertaining sequel that benefits from being more aware of itself than its predecessor.

It’s a kinder film than the first one, too. Peter doesn’t actively try to kill MacGregor this time around through anaphylaxis, and the mean-spiritedness is kept to more of a minimum, with a positive message about them becoming more of a family unit. As in the original, there are some fun nods to Potter’s world, and the animated designs of the characters do a fine job of paying tribute to her illustrations. In short, Peter Rabbit 2 is amusing enough and the animals are cute.

Bonus Features (4K Ultra HD):

The 4K Ultra HD set, which I was sent for review, comes with a regular Blu-ray disc as well. There are no bonuses on the 4K disc, but several featurettes are included on the Blu-ray. A code for a digital copy is also included in the package. Finally, it comes with a slipcover.

Bunnies, Baddies, and the Big City: The Making of Peter Rabbit 2 (9 minutes, 18 seconds): A pretty good “making of” featurette that features the cast and crew talking about expanding on the first one, and the challenges of acting alongside various stand-ins for the animated characters.

Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle’s Wee Little Kitchen (4 minutes, 59 seconds): This is essentially a baking instructional on how to make a blueberry pie, but all done with hands reaching into a tiny kitchen and preparing it in a tiny dish. Yes, I know.

Bea’s Crafting Corner: DIA Bunny Bookmarks (4 minutes, 50 seconds): A crafting video on how to make paper cutout bookmarks shaped like bunnies.

Bea’s Crafting Corner: Create Your Own Woodland Terrarium (4 minutes, 36 seconds): A video on how to make a terrarium for plants using a jar.

Fun From Peter Rabbit: We have two more bonuses under this separately listed section, which are both tied into the first film.

Make Your Own McGregor Garden (17 minutes, 3 seconds): Instructions on getting a garden started, featuring appearances from cast members and clips from the first movie.

Flopsy Turvy: A Peter Rabbit Mini Movie (4 minutes, 0 seconds): The same short that was made for and included on the 2018 Blu-ray release of the first film.

Peter Rabbit 2 is a Sony Pictures Home Entertainment release. It’s 93 minutes and rated 14A.

Street Date: August 24th, 2021

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