It rallies for an almost-boffo finale, with James Bond movie rescues and a James Bond Astin Martin — if spies ever drove convertibles.
But “Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway,” is a curiously perfunctory affair, a laughless comedy based on the Beatrix Potter animal darlings of scores of dainty little books created when the world was less cynical, in which the new “Bea” (Rose Byrne) wrestles with selling out to Big Business.
So in a meta sense, it’s a kids’ movie about the cynicism and salesmanship that goes into producing “children’s content.” Hilarious, and ever-so kid-friendly? Not bloody likely.
Bea and rabbit-leery, screams-like-a-teen-girl Thomas (Domhnall Gleeson) marry in the opening scene, in which Peter (voiced by James Corden) fantasizes about lashing out at his former tormenter Thomas at the merest hint of being “triggered.”
As a new publisher (David Oyelowo) woos the newlyweds with promises of riches, and the input of “marketing types” on Bea’s second book, Peter decides to follow his impulse — as usual — and run off to the city.
That’s how he falls in with some artful animal dodgers and their own rabbit Fagin, voiced by “Walking Dead” regular Lennie James. Peter wants to prove he’s not a “goody goody,” that he’s a “baddy baddy.” So naturally he enlists his old farm friends to help with The Big Farmer’s Market Heist.
The slapstick has one moment that made me chuckle, a clever Gleeson-and-stuntman stunt that involves chasing the family Land Rover down a hill. “Screaming like a teenage girl?” That’s a given.
Other laughs are very hard to come by, with the story turning dark as Peter and pals are nabbed to be sold as pets, and we look out from inside the cage as they do, at the horrors of clumsy or ill-intentioned human “owners” who have their lives in their hands.
“THIS is what it’s like to be a pet?”
Little kids will appreciate the drink-seltzer-and-belch gag. Adults will get a chuckle out of a Sony production taking an amusing cheap shot at Disney. Other than that…
COVID-delayed or not, this production has a half-hearted/half-arsed feel, something Corden’s Peter all but admits in the curtain call. Why reward them for that?
MPA Rating: PG for some rude humor and action
Cast: The voices of James Corden, Margot Robbie, Elizabeth Debicki, Lennie James, with Domhnall Gleeson, Rose Byrne and David Oyelowo.
Credits: Directed by Will Gluck, script by Patrick Burleigh and Will Gluck, based on the books of Beatrix Potter. A Sony Columbia release.
Running time: 1:33