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PETER RABBIT 2: THE RUNAWAY – Dominic Lewis

September 10, 2021 Leave a comment Go to comments

Original Review by Christopher Garner

Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway sees the titular rabbit leave his rural home for the big city, fall in with the wrong animal crowd, begin a life of crime, get all of his animal friends and family captured by a pet store (that apparently just takes whatever animals it can find and sells them), and then save all his friends from their new owners with the help of his human caretakers, Bea and Thomas. The computer animated animal characters in the film are allegedly based on the classic children’s books by Beatrix Potter, though I doubt the plot and tone of this film are anything like those books. The film is directed by Will Gluck, who also helmed the first film, stars Rose Byrne and Domhnall Gleeson as the human characters, and has James Corden, Margot Robbie, Elizabeth Debicki, Hayley Atwell, David Wenham, and Sam Neill voicing the animal characters. It received mixed reviews from critics, but has made over $150 million, which is very respectable given its release during the pandemic.

Dominic Lewis returned to score the sequel. This is his third animated film score as a solo composer, having scored the first Peter Rabbit film and Free Birds previously. He has also provided music for three Disney animated TV series: The Rocketeer, the new Duck Tales series, and the recent Monsters at Work. Before starting his solo composing career, he worked alongside John Powell, Henry Jackman, Hans Zimmer, and others at Remote Control Productions. There he orchestrated, arranged, and provided additional music for a variety of film scores, including How to Train Your Dragon, Rio, Kung Fu Panda 2, Puss in Boots, and Big Hero 6.

Lewis’s score for this sequel differentiates itself from his score for the original Peter Rabbit by eschewing the pop/rock elements of that score, embracing a lusher orchestral sound, and adding in some musical tropes from spy-films to accompany the film’s heist scenes. The film uses a lot of needle-dropped songs, which limited the amount of original score needed (there are just 36 minutes of music on the album), but Lewis uses the short runtime well, creating a multi-thematic score (with returning themes from the previous film’s score as well as several new themes) that is lively, charming, and fun.

The beginning of the score is warm and lovely, and sounds frequently like something you might hear in an animated film score by John Powell (unsurprisingly, given Lewis’s history working with Powell). “The Best of Times” introduces us to the main theme, which has two parts. The A part is a nice melody first heard on woodwinds and then repeated by the strings. The B part is a descending major scale (D major in this cue), that bounces back to the D at the top of the scale between each descending note. “Hip Hop, Foxtrot” is very classically structured, with an underpinning harpsichord giving it a baroque flair. “Travel to Gloucester” is upbeat, starting with a harpsichord performance of the B part of the main theme before the orchestra gives us a charming performance of the A part of that theme. Things take on a different flavor in the middle of the cue before returning to the main theme at the end.

The tone of the score shifts with “Fruit Lady,” a short track that gives us our first taste of action music in the score. “The Worst of Times” introduces the villain theme. It’s heard on bassoon at the beginning of the track, and the rest of the cue is basically variations on some part of that melody. “Fridge Raid” introduces a theme for Peter’s thieving, which I’ll call the heist theme. It has two parts as well, and more than a little resemblance to the theme from Mission: Impossible. The A part of the theme appears immediately. It’s a four-note descending motif that appears through the cue. The B part comes in at :25, performed by low woodwinds and low strings. As the track progresses the A part of the heist theme appears on flute, then strings, and by the time it’s played on brass reminds me quite a bit of Joe Kraemer’s excellent music for the fifth film in the Mission: Impossible franchise. During this cue Lewis also cleverly plays both parts of the heist theme simultaneously, and they overlap brilliantly.

“Frolicking” briefly returns the score back to the warm sound from the beginning of the album, repeating the main theme in a few variations. “Trenchcoat” throws us right back into the heist theme. “Toys, Tales and Town Mice,” features a toy piano, and repeats both parts of the main theme, at one point playing both simultaneously again. “Take Care of Him,” repeats the villain and heist themes.

“Get the Farmers” and “Cheese Escape” underscore the big heist scene of the film, where Peter Rabbit helps his new criminal friends make off with a bunch of food, and gets all his longtime family and friends captured by the poaching pet store people. The cues feature a lot of the heist theme, as well as some variations of the main theme. “Cheese Escape” uses both parts of the heist theme together before a tragically romantic variation on the villain theme (that sounds like it could be right out of a James Bond film score) signals the capture of his family and friends.

“Pet Shop Bunnies” starts with a sad variation on a theme that I think represents Peter’s animal family, as all the animals are bought up by different people as pets, future meals, or science experiments! The villain theme makes a cameo, and the B part of the main theme gets a minor key variation that works well as the music gets more intense. “Father Figure” features a soft and lovely melody that accompanies a more tender moment in the film before ending on an action theme making a reappearance from the first Peter Rabbit score. “I’ll Take My Chances” is the quiet before the finale, slowly building hope and leading into the rescue operation that will save all of Peter’s friends.

“The Fast and the Furriest” is probably the best track on the album, and accompanies that big finale as Peter, Bea, and Thomas go all over town (and somehow onto airplanes, and boats) stealing the animals away from people who thought they had legally purchased them (the film wastes no time exploring the ethics of any of this). Lewis uses several of the score’s themes (including the action theme from the first score, the heist theme, and the main theme) in variations that work well for a big action finale. It’s an impressive cue and includes several fun homages to spy-movie scores. The final cue, “Rabbit Through the Hole,” gives us a lovely major-key variation on the family theme from “Pet Shop Bunnies,” followed by a more upbeat variation on that same theme, interweaving the B part of the main theme through it to the end.

All the themes Lewis came up with for this score are good, and I far prefer the sound of this score to what he wrote for the first film. The heist-style music in the score is well done (I’m sure Lewis could pull off a convincing Mission: Impossible or James Bond score if ever given the chance). The brevity of the scores means it doesn’t outstay its welcome, but it also means that the score is somewhat fleeting. There’s not quite enough time with any of the themes to make them really stick in the mind once it’s all over. Still, what’s here is well done, and a pleasant way to pass half an hour.

Buy the Peter Rabbit 2 soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • The Best of Times (1:18)
  • Hip Hop, Foxtrot (2:38)
  • Travel to Gloucester (2:30)
  • Fruit Lady (0:55)
  • The Worst of Times (2:18)
  • Fridge Raid (2:37)
  • Frolicking (1:33)
  • Trenchcoat (1:14)
  • Toys, Tales and Town Mice (1:35)
  • Take Care of Him (1:13)
  • Get the Farmers (3:31)
  • Cheese Escape (1:53)
  • Pet Shop Bunnies (2:48)
  • Father Figure (1:47)
  • I’ll Take My Chances (1:54)
  • The Fast and the Furriest (4:16)
  • Rabbit Through the Hole (2:37)

Running Time: 36 minutes 27 seconds

Sony Classical (2021)

Music composed by Dominic Lewis. Conducted by Christopher Gordon. Orchestrations by Tommy Laurence, Andrew Kinney and Geoff Lawson. Recorded and mixed by Evan McHugh and Al Clay. Edited by Tim Ryan and Sherry Whitfield. Album produced by Dominic Lewis.

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