Humans and bunnies bring the fun in “Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway”
Updated: Jun 24, 2022
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / HDR FRAME SHOTS
Center, Peter Rabbit (James Corden) left, Cottontail (Aimee Horne), Benjamin (Colin Moody), Flopsy (Margot Robbie) and Mopsy (Elizabeth Debicki).
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“PETER RABBIT 2: THE RUNAWAY”
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, Digital copy; 2021; PG for some rude humor and action; streaming via Amazon Prime Video (4K), Apple TV (4K), Movie Anywhere (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube (4K)
Best extra: “Bunnies, Baddies, and the Big City”
SCHEDULED FOR a big-screen release just before Easter 2020, the self-aware “Peter Rabbit 2” was one of the first Hollywood films to be derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic. After several failed relaunches, the movie sequel combining live-action and frisky VFX effects bunnies of writer/illustrator Beatrix Potter finally hit the multiplex in May and June 2021 in the U.K. and the U.S. Audiences loved it, bringing a nearly 90 percent rating from families on Rotten Tomatoes, while critics gave it a favorable 66 percent.
In the opening, author Bea (Rose Byrne) marries the once-feared Thomas McGregor (Domhnall Gleeson) with Peter (voiced by TV talk show host James Corden) as ‘Best Man.’ The rest of the gang is there, too: Benjamin (Colin Moody), Flopsy (Margot Robbie), Mopsy (Elizabeth Debicki) and Cottontail (Aimee Horne) as part of the wedding party. “[Bea’s] sort of the unofficial mother of Peter and the rest of the gang,” says Australian actress Rose Byrne during the featurette “Bunnies, Baddies, and the Big City” included on the enclosed Blu-ray and digital.
The couple has opened a gift shop selling copies of Bea’s self-published books about Peter and his pals. Meanwhile, back at home, the garden has become fair game to all of the critters, the exception being McGregor’s prized tomatoes.
(1&2) Peter, Benjamin and Thomas McGregor (Domhnall Gleeson) wait for Bea to walk down the aisle. (3) Here comes Bea as Mopsy (Elizabeth Debicki), Flopsy (Margot Robbie) and Cottontail (Aimee Horne) watch the bride. (4) Bea and Thomas make it official. (5) Bea gives Peter a little tap.
American director Will Gluck and co-writer Patrick Burleigh made sure all of the characters from the original were back, including Rooster, Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle, and Pigling Bland, along with Peter, “Who thinks he knows everything,” Gluck says. Several villains have been added including old rabbit scoundrel Barnabas (Lennie James), a contemporary father figure to lonely Peter, who’s now a runaway. Barnabas shows him the world beyond the garden walls, producer Jodi Hildebrand says. “Peter really falls for him, and it feels like, with Barnabas, he’s found his true self.” His gang includes two cats Mittens (Hayley Atwell) and Tom Kitten (Damon Herriman), and a grizzled rat aka Samuel Whiskers (Rupert Degas).
Wicked London franchise publisher Nigel Basil-Jones (David Oyelowo) tries to convince Bea to compromise her charming characters and give each rabbit a new persona in order to sell more books – calling Peter the “bad seed.” She’d rather eat worms then turn her characters into “sassy hipsters,” she says. Nigel responds, “Your books will never go anywhere without me. This is the last the world will ever hear about Peter Rabbit.”
During the featurette, we learned the soundstages, and most of the urban scenes and the farmers market, were actually filmed in and around Sydney, Australia. They also filmed in Richmond upon Thames in the U.K. Production crew members maneuvered blue wooden cut-outs of the rabbits on long sticks so the camera operator and actors had a reference point to where the VFX rabbits were to be placed. Gluck considers the process as if making two movies. First the live-action scenes and then the visual effects created by Animal Logic based in Sydney. All of the new creature’s costumes were inspired by Potter’s designs.
A warning to moms and dads – the finale action sequence has some “cartoon violence” and a slight James Bond salute with a daring rescue from Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle saving the day.
(1) Bea and Thomas open a small gift shop selling copies of Bea’s self-published books about Peter and his pals. (2&3) Pigling Bland (Ewen Leslie) and Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle (Sia) and the rest of the animals have free-range of McGregor’s garden expect for his prized tomatoes. (4) Thomas spots Peter within his tomato plants, and assumes the worst. In reality Peter is returning tomatoes picked by another animal.
The 4K presentation was sourced from a 2K master and upconverted to 4K, but the principle photography was captured on 6K digital cameras (2.39:1 aspect ratio). But, with over 2,000 FX shots, the digital files of the animals were rendered in 2K to save time and money. The resolution difference between the 4K and HD versions is minimal, which was a shock. Other 2K masters on 4K normally show a greater increase of final detail. Not so much here.
The color palette has a slightly desaturated look to match Potter’s original watercolors and black ink, so the HDR10 and Dolby Vision (digital) extracts slightly deeper colors, while the mid-tones and highlights are more defined.
The 4K disc and digital both include the eight-channel Dolby Atmos soundtrack that’s quite active with your height speakers with effects, and Dominic Lewis’ traditional orchestral score that’s heavy on strings. Everything is well balanced between the dialogue from the actors and FX characters, and the effects and music. The HD version has the six-channel DTS-HD soundtrack that’s still strong, but misses that added, enveloping sound environment.
The movie’s center theme is about “identity and who you are versus what people think you are,” says Gluck who’s already planning “Peter Rabbit 3.” But, for Irish actor Domhnall Gleeson (“Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens”) playing McGregor was “making something that kids would really enjoy and really laugh at.” For my two grandsons “Peter Rabbit 2” was an absolute hoot.
— Bill Kelley III, High-Def Watch Producer
(1) London franchise publisher Nigel Basil-Jones (David Oyelowo) proposes a new direction for Bea’s rabbits. Peter would become the “Mischief Maker and Bad Seed.” (2) Peter runs into rabbit scoundrel Barnabas (Lennie James) and the two become best friends. (3&4) Peter and Barnabas are picked up by animal control and adapted by Amelia (Lily Hall) and she keeps them in a cage. (5) But, that doesn’t last long. The two escape and find the vegetables.