Linda Cook review: Loud, slapstick ‘Peter Rabbit 2’ is average family fare

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It’s not as mean-spirited, obnoxious or quite as violent as the first movie.

Those aspects of the first “Peter Rabbit” made me, well, hopping mad. “Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway” isn’t quite as annoying, which makes it an average family flick.

The human characters from the first movie, Thomas (Domhnall Gleeson) and Bea (Rose Byrne) have been married.

Peter (voice of James Corden) isn’t so sure he and the other rabbits are truly family. Author Bea, who writes about the adventures of the rabbits and the other creatures, is approached by a major publisher (David Oyelowo) who wants her to change the tone of the stories to make them more commercial.

Bea thinks she might be selling out if she signs a contract.

Peter makes the acquaintance of Barnabas (Lennie James), a streetwise rabbit who leads a group of thieves (think “Oliver Twist” and the Fagin character.) Peter, whose character is vilified in Bea’s writings, joins the gang that plans to steal fruit from a farmers market.

The idea of pandering to an audience already has happened, of course, with the gentle books of Beatrix Potter springing to feature films full of shouting, screaming and slapstick. I don’t know why the screenplay focuses on this – to appear self aware? To pretend it’s not happening?

Iris doesn’t see the humor in “Peter Rabbit 2.”

I’ve seen worse films for kids, but sometimes the way the animals are treated here made me cringe, especially when they are picked up by the ears and put in terrifying situations (admittedly, as a member of the House Rabbit Society who is allowed to share my home with Iris the Wonder Bunny, I’m hyper-aware.) Because the animals are made to look realistic this bothered me a lot more than an animated feature would have.

Sometimes the characters are comical – I like the idea of an energetic, jogging fox, for example. Also, the animal characters never lose their lifelike appearance, so they’re fun to see.

You’d do much better sharing the original Beatrix Potter books with your family, then going to the theater to enjoy the excellent “Spirit Untamed.”

2 stars

Rated: PG for violence and coarse humor.

Running time: One hour and 33 minutes.

At Cinemark, Davenport; Regal, Moline; and Palms 10, Muscatine.

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