Paddington 2 Review
Paddington Bear returns and the filmmakers put bear-ly a foot wrong in this stunningly charming sequel
Paddington 2, this sequel to the excellent 2014 film, is utterly delightful, and is just the sort of thing needed to get the festive season off to a jolly start.Director Paul King returns and does a masterful job of combining whimsy with real heart and humour. Paddington (Ben Whishaw) decides the perfect birthday present for his Aunt Lucy’s 100th birthday is an incredible pop-up book about London that’s just a tad out of the small mammal’s budget, and so resolves to save up to buy it. Naturally, it doesn’t go quite to plan and there’s a bit of a caper to contend with before everything gets sorted out.
Part of the caper takes the form of a scene-stealing Hugh Grant, who plays the evil and fabulously-monikered Phoenix Buchanan, a past-his-best thespian who also has his eye on the book. Grant camps up the film to an alarmingly entertaining degree – it wouldn’t be particularly far-fetched to say this is his best role yet. The universe of this film is fantastical and surreal – The Shard exists at the same time as steam trains etc. but that's part of the charm.
There’s something about this world means it’s not so weird that a small South American bear should take on an evil London actor in a quest over a book. Of course, nothing is ever as simple as it seems, and before long Paddington finds himself wrongly accused, fighting to clear his name and unjustly incarcerated. In an unlikely parallel to the Emmy-winning The Night Of, Paddington makes a friend on the inside (Brendan Gleeson’s volatile Knuckles), and hatches a plan to save his name and his aunt’s book.
Unlike other very recent sequels (cough, A Bad Moms Christmas, cough), the jokes and punchlines and payoffs in the screenplay (written by King, Simon Farnaby and Jon Croker) don’t feel tired or too try-hard. There’s a winning blend of knowing humour for the adults and family-friendly fun that make this the perfect pre-Christmas cinema trip.
Grant is, undeniably, the star of the film, no matter how cute Paddington is nor how excellently voiced the bear is by Whishaw. That being said, the ensemble cast are roundly excellent – there’s Hugh Bonneville as the beleaguered Mr Brown, an immensely loveable Sally Hawkins as Mrs Brown, vibrant Julie Walters as housekeeper Mrs Bird and a whole host of other household names, from Sanjeev Bhaskar, Jim Broadbent and Brendan Gleeson to Richard Ayoade, Joanna Lumley and Peter Capaldi.
Hugh Grant camps it up to an alarmingly entertaining degree in possibly his best role
There really isn’t much to say about this film other than that it is wonderful – sweeter than our hero’s absolute favourite marmalade. Really, it puts a lot of other more ‘high-brow’ pieces of cinema to shame; here is a relatively simple story done well. That’s all we’ve been asking for. Some lovely visual touches from King and a truly charming script are enhanced by brilliant CGI and stunning visuals (hat-tip to cinematographer Erik Wilson) and a wonderful Wes Anderson-esque world that’s guaranteed to delight young and old. After all, a red phone box never really goes out of style.
This is, above all, an accomplished sequel. It takes everything that was good about the first film and builds upon it. There are clever political plot points, but it’s never too preachy or pedagogical. The jokes are amusing, the characters are loveable and never too much, the screen is always gorgeous. It’s November now so it’s safe to say (although realistically I would have said this about Paddington 2 in bleakest January) – this is the feel-good film of the year.
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