Gone is co-screenwriter Rob Lieber (Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day) and in his is place freshman scribe Patrick Burleigh. Lieber brought a sense of uncontrollable mayhem to Beatrix Potter’s bucolic landscapes and the mixture of live action and CG animation had reached such a level of refinement, I actually found myself singing the praises of a “studio that regularly begot cartoon child abuse in the form of Alvin squeakuels.” Part 2 found me screaming, “ALVIN!” Director Will Gluck is back, this time helming a largely dialogue-driven adventure that follows sensible Mr. McGregor’s (Domhnall Gleeson) attempts to steer his wife Bea’s (Rose Byrne) instincts to sell her soul in exchange for a sequel to be published by Nigel Basil-Jones (David Oyelowo). A master of the art of merchandising, he envisions Peter as the villain. The idea of feral animals learning to live in captivity is dropped almost before it’s mentioned. Anything would have been more interesting than treating the characters like children. And one guesses positive messaging makes for dull bunnies. Why else would McGregor and Nigel resort to fisticuffs to settle their score? It’s not hard to lie to someone looking to be loved, and in the end, the film becomes precisely what it mocked. (2021) — Scott Marks
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