Paddington 2 is a film as adorable as its furry and friendly protagonist. It exists in a fairytale version of London where every problem seems as though it can be solved with a kind heart and a handful of marmalade sandwiches. It’s a city that has become so accepting of the bear dressed in a hat and coat that it’s to hard imagine life without him. As the film blatantly states at several points, Paddington can see the good in everyone and try to bring it out. This sequel operates accordingly as well, finding what charms the audience most and bringing out a warm and joyful smile.
Paddington (voiced once more by Ben Whishaw) has become comfortable enough in the Brown household and the rest of the neighborhood, except with the grumpy block captain, Mr. Curry (Peter Capaldi). Seeking to purchase a present for his auntie currently in a retirement home, Paddington seeks out jobs to pay for a rare pop-up book of London. But when some unknown man mysteriously steals the book, it’s the bear that takes the fall for the crime. It’s up to the Brown family to prove the Paddington’s innocence while he adjusts to prison life.
Yes, you’ve most likely seen this plot a dozen times before in a multitude of capers, but I sincerely doubt they were ever this entertaining with charisma. The most fun comes from Hugh Grant, gleefully playing the washed-up actor Phoenix Buchanan, a man so mad for the stage he splits his personality into several theater figures. He bickers with Hamlet about tragedy and Scrooge about costs. Phoenix is seeking a treasure that can only be found in the pop-up book and uses his many disguises to sneak into the various landmarks that offer more clues. The fortune he seeks is nothing all that astounding, merely a handful of golden valuables best suited for a pirate treasure of old. But his devilish means of sneaking around are what make this journey such a delight. If you dug watching Grant play multiple roles in Cloud Atlas, you’d most likely love his silly costumes, designed for him to quickly shift from an unsuspecting nun to an unquestionable bishop when infiltrating a church.
There are plenty of physical hijinks for the clumsy Paddington, but they’re more admirable for the character being so sincere and his bits so classic. One sequence finds him sweeping up for a barber shop, only to make a mess when an impatient customer demands his hair be cut. Another scene features him trying to wash windows where his small size and weight make it difficult to hoist a bucket of water, leading to a watery disaster.
No matter; Paddington still finds a way to make things work in the end. For his time in prison, he questions the cafeteria food of the inmate chef, Knuckles (Brendan Gleeson), a bitter man that doesn’t take too kindly to criticism. But with some helpful suggestions and a good hard stare, it isn’t long before the dreary prison cafeteria transforms into a lavish eatery of gorgeous desserts. Only Paddington could turn a prison into a paradise. Then again, only a prison of such colorful characters would allow for such a whimsical interpretation of incarceration. If prison was all teacakes, gardening, and reading, lock me up!
Every aspect of Paddington is a delight, including the supporting players that seem to be having just as much fun with the material. Jessica Hynes plays the chipper Miss Kitts, the local newsstand manager with an intelligent parrot by her side.Joanna Lumley plays a darling-slinging talent agent, echoing her decadence-craving character from Absolutely Fabulous. Richard Ayoade, best known as Moss from The IT Crowd, pops up as a forensics expert that has the pleasure of dramatically revealing his findings of marmalade at the scene of a crime. And it’s hard not to fall for the kindly antique shopkeeper of Mr. Gruber, played by Jim Broadbent with a German accent.
Paddington 2 retains that same sense of coziness, snappiness, and sincerity from the previous film, but is elevated by some better writing and visuals. The Brown family finally plays a more significant role, with every member of the family adding something to solving Paddington’s plight, from the mid-life crisis of Mr. Brown (Hugh Bonneville) to the independent newspaper publishing of the daughter, Judy Brown (Madeleine Harris). There’s more cleverness in the physical gags, as with Paddington ascending a clock tower with reference to Charlie Chaplin and a stunt by Mr. Brown that had to be a tribute to Jean-Claude Van Damme.
There’s so much to love about this picture that it will undoubtedly entertain the entire family. While exiting the theater, I noted two groups of people raving about the film on their exit. One was a family of three 7-year-old kids, the other an elderly couple with no grandkids in tow. If the film landscape seems to be meandering in a sea of meekness and flustering freneticism, Paddington 2 is an invitation to come in from the cold and warm yourself with a film that’s inspiring, beautiful, and just plain fun. In a month that’s usually a dark time for the weather and the new movie landscape, who couldn’t use such an escape?