The Wonderful World of Peter Rabbit
The Peter Rabbit stories, warmly written and illustrated by English author Beatrix Potter, have a timeless quality. When the tales were first published in 1902, Potter imbued them with genial life lessons and messages about conservancy and environmentalism. Peter, who has worn shoes and a blue jacket ever since those original stories, became an icon of children’s literature.
In 2018, Peter, along with stalwart supporting players like Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cottontail, got the lavish big-screen treatment in PETER RABBIT, complete with cutting-edge visual effects and an extremely cool cast. Now, the next chapter in Peter's story, PETER RABBIT 2: THE RUNAWAY is fast approaching. We thought we’d provide a quick refresher on the world of PETER RABBIT and look at what the new sequel offers.
Previously, In Peter Rabbit
PETER RABBIT (above), released in February 2018, was a wonderful, hilarious and heartwarming surprise. Co-written and directed by Will Gluck (EASY A, FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS), the first PETER RABBIT movie focused on the titular bunny (voiced by James Corden), as he wages war against Farmer McGregor (Domhnall Gleeson). This character, like most of Peter's world, was live-action rather than animated — the rabbits are the only CG creations.
Originally a posh London executive, McGregor is given the farm by a long-lost relative, played by real-life farmer Sam Neill. Soon, the new farmer is also falling in love with Bea (Rose Byrne), an artist who lives next door and who adores the local wildlife. She paints and therefore is also a stand-in for Potter.
The first movie winningly combined rom-com mechanics, a HOME ALONE-style mixture of physical humor and high emotion, and some truly gorgeous visual effects and animation courtesy of Australian studio Animal Logic. The soundtrack, featuring artists like Basement Jaxx and Vampire Weekend, was also tons of fun. By the end of the film, (relative) peace had been reached in the English countryside and Bea and Farmer McGregor had found love. Honestly, we’d have been a little upset if another installment wasn’t on the way.
An Expanded Universe
For the sequel, once again co-written and directed by Gluck, Peter leaves the farm while McGregor and Bea are on their honeymoon. Peter winds up connecting with an old family friend, Barnabas (Lennie James), and, if the trailer is any indication, goes on a series of increasingly grand adventures for away from all the comforts of home.
When a sequel dramatically expands the scope of the original film, there's always a risk of losing the unique charm that made the sequel possible in the first place. PETER RABBIT 2: THE RUNAWAY, however, looks like it has no trouble retaining the essence of what made the first film so special and compelling. However PETER RABBIT 2 wants to surprise us, we’re happy to see it. The potential here brings to mind another flawless two-movie series based on a beloved English literary property: PADDINGTON, which was followed by the equally lovely PADDINGTON 2.
Part of what made the first film so much fun to watch was the excellent voice cast. James Corden was terrific, with a manic, almost Robin Williams-in-ALADDIN energy that made Peter an irrepressible hero. The supporting cast included Daisy Ridley, Elizabeth Debicki, and Margot Robbie, who pulled double duty, also serving as the film’s winking narrator. In a fun twist, Byrne, Neill and Gleeson also provided the voices of several barnyard animals, complementing their live-action performances.
Thankfully everybody is back for the sequel, along with new cast member David Oyelowo, playing a McGregor relative. That’s a lot of star power for the sequel! We can't wait to see where Peter goes in PETER RABBIT 2: THE RUNAWAY.
PETER RABBIT 2: THE RUNAWAY opens on June 18!
All images courtesy of Sony Pictures.