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'Rabbit 2' finally out, now what?

by Philip Martin | June 11, 2021 at 1:34 a.m.

There's a place for inoffensive family films that rarely rise above a sort of baseline cuteness I suppose.

Or maybe not. In any case, I can't work up any sort of rancor over the release of "Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway." I know some film critics (and probably some regular people) absolutely hated the original, Will Gluck's "Peter Rabbit" from 2018, but I don't really understand why I'm supposed to regard it as a crime against art. I actually saw it in a theater, of my own volition, and while it would be too strong to say I actually liked it -- I honestly don't remember much about it -- we weren't driven from the theater by its inanity of anything.

(Come to think of it, we actually saw it in the evening, in one of those movie houses that serve drinks. That might have something to do with why I maintain a mild fondness for "Peter Rabbit" -- it is very likely a movie that is improved by mood-altering beverages.)

Not everyone hated it. It earned a surprise $115.2 million domestically and $347 million globally. So the sequel was inevitable.

Anyway, I'm bringing up "Peter Rabbit 2" because the poor thing is finally opening after being pushed back nine times since its original scheduled opening date in March 2020 -- nine times.

Not that this sort of thing matters to anyone who isn't in the movie industry. The audience starts to pay attention when they first hear about a movie coming out, when they see a trailer. They don't think about whether films are naturally winter, spring, summer or fall releases. They see some marketing, they may want to see the movie.

And sometimes the marketing gets out over its skies.

In the 1980s, a theater I frequented exhibited a promotional title card for a film called "Mike's Murder" in its coming attractions slide show for more than three years. For three years, I waited for "Mike's Murder," which starred Debra Winger and Paul Winfield and was written and directed by Little Rock's own James Bridges with music by Joe Jackson, to show up on the screen.

It never did play that particular theater, or anywhere in the town where I was living, although it did get some sort of release. What I didn't know at the time was that Warner Bros. had held up the release because they were unhappy with the film Bridges delivered. They reportedly didn't like how it focused on the seamy underside of the drug-fixated L.A. entertainment world. They made Bridges cut it and turn it into a straightforward crime drama, losing the backwards chronology that had been the film's original structure. They replaced some of Jackson's presumably jazzy score with a more conventional one by John Barry.

When I finally saw "Mike's Murder" years later, I thought it was pretty disappointing, though Winger and Winfield are pretty terrific. And a few Joe Jackson songs made their way into the final product. I would very much like to see the film as Bridges envisioned it. (Anyone out there got a copy?)

Anyway, "Peter Rabbit 2" is opening, and it returns the entire core cast of the first offering. James Corden voices the animated title character, Margot Robbie is his friend Flopsy Rabbit, while on the live-action side Rose Byrne returns as the Beatrix Potter stand-in who is now married to former baddie Mr. McGregor (Domhnall Gleeson). Joining the cast for this one is David Oyelowo, as an unscrupulous book publisher.

In this installment, Peter wanders away and gets taken in by a criminal gang of animals, risking losing his connection to both his rabbit pals and the humans he has come to consider family.

Fine. It's finally out. Now we can move on.

If there is anything good that has come out of this pandemic, it likely has to do with the recalibration of our expectations. Maybe some of us are now better prepared to sit alone in a room by ourselves than we were before we started using masks and hand sanitizers. Maybe we've become more patient.

Probably not. I'm ready to fast forward through this summer movie season -- which at least will feel more like a real summer movie season than last year's -- and get to the "good stuff." The next James Bond is now scheduled for Oct. 8; Wes Anderson's "The French Dispatch" for Oct. 22.

Let's hope they make it.


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