Reviews can be tough to read, especially when they’re not exactly glowing with praise for the project that’s being bashed. Then again, sometimes pans for a movie like Peter Rabbit might mean that when it comes time to make Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway, inspiration can turn those sour grapes into fizzy laughter. At least, that’s what it sounds like James Corden and director Will Gluck did, as one particularly rude critic sparked a very funny plot in the world of this children’s entertainment.
As I was participating in the press day for Peter Rabbit 2, I really wanted to ask James Corden if one specific joke had come from anywhere in particular. With the propensity to poke fun at things like potential angry letters from the audience, as well as adapting the work of Beatrix Potter into films, the series has made quite a few pointed references to real life inspirations. In the case of a recurring joke where Peter Rabbit wonders if his own voice is annoying, Corden told me that the moment came from the contents of a real review:
I think it was [that] a British reviewer wrote a review saying that my voice was really annoying. And me and Will [Gluck,] who wrote and directed the film, were like, ‘Is it annoying?’ I’ve always felt like I’ve got a sort of painfully ordinary voice, that there is nothing that marks it out in any distinction, good or bad. But this reviewer felt quite strongly about it, so we thought maybe it’d be funny if throughout the film, Peter just keeps going, ‘Is it annoying? Is my voice annoying?’, and just doing these little things. The film is full of moments like this.
Regardless of anyone’s opinion on how James Corden’s voice sounds, being able to poke fun at that concept in Peter Rabbit 2 displays the sort of satire that Corden and Will Gluck have taken part in since day one. Even the first Peter Rabbit movie had a moment that called out the potential outrage that eventually came to pass, thanks to Peter using his knowledge of Thomas MacGregor’s blackberry allergies in the heat of battle. So when you have someone really tearing into Peter Rabbit, like this unknown reviewer did, that’s just grist for the mill.
Improving on the day was a vital part of the process behind Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway, as James Corden, and the rest of the voice cast, were naturally encouraged by Will Gluck to really go for it. Thanks to that spirit of comedic freedom, Corden admitted a lot of material sprung forth that didn’t make it into Peter Rabbit 2. But this particular gem did make it in, and you can see where it all starts, courtesy of the official clip that was released for the film’s promotional campaign:
Will Gluck’s input as a co-writer and director on both Peter Rabbit films can truly be felt in the decisions that led to jokes such as this one being included in the film. And throughout the entire press day, fellow cast members like David Oyelowo, Elizabeth Debicki, Domhnall Gleeson and Rose Byrne all sang his praises as a force of good on Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway. You can feel that this goodwill is genuine, as the sequel that resulted from the collaboration between actor and director is just as effective with children and adults as its predecessor.
Should there be a Peter Rabbit 3, who knows what sort of real life events will make it into the comedic arsenal of James Corden’s rambunctious rabbit? The extended reaction to the film will ultimately determine where things go next, should there be any interest to romp through the series’ gardens yet again. And while a wise cartoon rabbit once said, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say it at all," that rule is apparently off the table now, especially when it leads to the wildest sort of inspiration. For now, you can see how the world at large inspired Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway, as it’s currently in theaters, waiting to soak up all of the notes for potential future comedy gold.