Paddington 2 picks up on the titular bear (voiced by Ben Whishaw) as he’s happily settled in in London with the Brown family – father Henry (Hugh Boneville), mother Mary (Sally Hawkins), children Jonathan and Judy (Samuel Joselin and Madeline Harris) and housekeeper Mrs. Bird (Julie Walters). When he spots a special pop-up book in the antiques shop run by his friend Mr. Gruber (Jim Broadbent) he decides to start working odd jobs in order to buy it for the 100th birthday of his Aunt Lucy (voiced by Imelda Staunton). But the book is suddenly stolen and Paddington is apprehended for the crime and sent off to prison. Now it’s up for the Brown family to help Paddington clear his name and find the real culprit, the narcissistic faded actor Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant).
The main reason why the first Paddington worked so well was because of the wonderful innocent charm and joyfully heartwarming nature that it created as a result of the character. And this element returns in full flow in this sequel – the movie radiates joy and fun from every pore of its being to the point where almost every scene is a whimsical and upbeat ride. One of the key attributes of the character of Paddington is that he often makes mistakes and is somewhat naïve but he always means well and manages to bring out the better side of people through his actions. The film really hammers home that aspect of his character – take for instance his time in jail where he manages to turn around dreaded safecracker Knuckles McGinty (Brendan Gleeson) by giving him a newfound passion for marmalade, which in turn allows for the prison to become a brighter and happier place. The optimism of this little bear really works as it allows for Paddington 2 to be a gleeful bit of hopeful escapism all the way – there are a few sad moments but they’re balanced well with the cheerfulness and heartwarming moments of the rest of the film.
It also helps that the film is once again very funny in a rather absurdist and so wonderfully British kind of way – the script mixes together enjoyably dry and witty dialogue, often provided best through the uptight Mr. Brown and the sarcastic Mrs. Bird, and gleefully silly slapstick – we see the latter best in Paddington’s initial search for a job where he attempts to be a cleaner at a barbershop which leads to him inadvertently cutting a man’s hair. This mixture of humour manages to give something for every member of the audience, especially when some of the gags and little character moments set up early come back later in the film, and there’s no obnoxious crude toilet humour floating around in the film. Visually the film is once again a treat, with Framestore’s animation on Paddington being top notch and realistic whilst the colourful aesthetic in the sets always makes the film feel lively and bright. And the top British cast all are fantastic once again. Ben Whishaw is excellent as the voice of Paddington, balancing out his youthful naiveté and quaint British politeness splendidly. Boneville and Hawkins resume their roles as Mr. and Mrs. Brown with the same wonderful charm that they did in the first film, with their characters still keeping their enjoyable traits, with Mr. Brown still being somewhat stuffy and serious and Mrs. Brown still being rather more odd minded, with the two balancing each other out well. The rest of the returning faces, including Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent and Peter Capaldi, all resume their parts well and Gleeson provides his gruff tones to make Knuckles McGinty a well-balanced character, grumpy and a bit scary at times but with a hidden heart of gold. Stealing the show however is Hugh Grant as the villainous Phoenix Buchanan; he’s vain and unable to work with other people and Grant manages to capture the more egotistical side of actors with lots of charm and humour, whilst his use of accents and disguises are fantastic throughout the film. Though he’s more comical and less sinister than Nicole Kidman’s taxidermist Millicent from the previous instalment, he’s no less enjoyable to watch due to all of his very funny characteristics.
Paddington 2 had a lot riding on it, with the first being such a surprise hit, and it’s a delight to say that it surpasses all those expectations and then some to become another wonderfully charming and delightfully British film. All of the aspects that were so good in the first film – the humour, the visual effects, the cast and the heart – are all back and are used to an even greater degree, which overall helps this instalment to match, and at some points even exceed, the original Paddington. The pressure’s on for a third outing but with the team having proved themselves as being marvellous with the character twice over the franchise is likely in the safest of hands.
Paddington 2 – directed by Paul King, written by King and Simon Farnaby, produced by David Heyman, starring Hugh Boneville, Sally Hawkins, Brendan Gleeson, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent, Peter Capaldi and Hugh Grant, with the voices of Ben Whishaw and Imelda Staunton. A Heyday Films production, a StudioCanal film
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