Paddington 2 is a charming confection of a film that manages to exceed its predecessor in terms of both visual splendor and good-natured storytelling.
Paddington 2 is a delightful sequel that brings the Peruvian bear with a soft spot for marmalade sandwiches back to the big screen, with director Paul King once again calling the shots. King came from the world of offbeat comedy fare like The Mighty Boosh TV show and the 2009 film Bunny and the Bull when he first adapted the late Michael Bond’s beloved creation for live-action, and his idiosyncratic sensibilities blended surprisingly well with the world of Paddington Bear. King’s success with the first Paddington movie naturally raised expectations for his followup, and the sequel not only clears that bar, it’s an improvement in most every respect. Paddington 2 is a charming confection of a film that manages to exceed its predecessor in terms of both visual splendor and good-natured storytelling.
Paddington Bear (Ben Whishaw) has settled in nicely into his life with the Brown family in Windsor Gardens, having become a very popular and helpful member of the community. Seeking the perfect gift to give to his Aunt Lucy (Imelda Staunton) for her 100th birthday, Paddington finds what he’s looking for in Mr. Gruber’s (Jim Broadbent) antique shop – a one of a kind pop-up book that takes readers on a tour of London’s most famous landmarks, thus giving Aunt Lucy a chance to see and experience the famous city that she had always dreamed of visiting one day.
In order to pay for the relatively expensive pop-up book, Paddington takes on a variety of odd-end jobs to raise the necessary funds, eventually finding his niche as a window washer. However, when Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant) – a washed out actor who lives down the street from Paddington and the Browns – steals the pop-up book, Paddington is blamed for the crime and winds up being sent to prison. Determined not to lose faith, Paddington keeps his head up and does his best to befriend his fellow inmates, including the prison’s ill-tempered cook Nuckles McGinty (Brendan Gleeson). Meanwhile, the Browns set out to clear Paddington’s name and uncover not only who really stole the pop-up book, but what they want with it in the first place.
Much like the first Paddington, Paddington 2 weaves in heartfelt messages and subtext about the importance of the immigrant community in London, which helped to shape Bond’s Paddington Bear stories in the first place. The film celebrates diversity and tolerance for others in more literal ways too, by filling out its ensemble cast in an inclusive manner and bringing back the calypso music group Tobago and d’Lime to once again function as the movie’s Greek chorus. On the surface level, the script by King and Simon Farnaby (Yonderland) preaches generosity and kindness towards others in a way that audiences of all ages can understand and appreciate, all while serving up a tightly woven narrative full of funny and touching moments alike. As the best family friendly movies do, Paddington 2 succeeds at being an entertaining romp that never calls excess attention to its own thoughtfulness.
Paddington 2 is also a joy to watch purely from an aesthetic perspective. Like the first Paddington, the sequel has a Wes Anderson-style attention to detail and a keen eye for quirky visuals, thanks to King and his returning collaborators behind the camera (including, cinematographer Erik Wilson and production designer Gary Williamson). Everything from the colorful wallpaper of the Brown residence to the interior layout of Paddington’s prison is visual pleasing to behold and further helps to bring the film’s whimsical universe to life. Even the slapstick comedy sequences in the sequel are creatively executed and manage to pay homage to classic works of cinema (Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times in particular gets a funny nod here), while still working on their own for those moviegoers who aren’t familiar with the references being made.
Whishaw as Paddington remains one of the best and most expressive CGI characters who exists in a live-action world, thanks to the combination of Whishaw’s vocal performance and the many digital artists responsible for bringing Paddington to photorealistic life. Paddington 2 seamlessly integrates the eponymous bear into the proceedings, to the point that it becomes easy to forget that he’s not actually there interacting with the flesh and blood actors around him. Speaking of, the members of the Brown family – Henry (Hugh Bonneville), Mary (Sally Hawkins), Jonathan (Samuel Joslin), Judy (Madeleine Harris), and Mrs. Bird (Julie Walters) – are all essential to the story here and each one gets a moment to shine, with the actors behind them great across the board. The same goes for the returning and new crew members here who fill out the film’s impressive supporting cast.
Equally terrific here are Gleeson and Grant as the two key new additions in the Paddington sequel. Gleeson is a joy as Nuckles, the hard-edged career criminal whose softer and more vulnerable side is brought out at last by the ever-polite Paddington Bear. Meanwhile, Grant gets to have a blast chewing the scenery as Phoenix Buchanan, a wonderfully cartoonish and vain (faded) actor whose knack for vanishing into costumed roles serves him well when he tries his hand at being a crook. Paddington 2 even makes a few subtle jabs at Grant’s past as the handsome lead in many a famous romantic comedy from the 1990s and 2000s, which should get older filmgoers chuckling.
Paddington 2 is not only as warmhearted and well-crafted as its predecessor, it’s the rare sequel that improves on the first installment. Those who loved the first Paddington no doubt need little encouragement to give this followup a look, but newcomers to the series can feel safe in climbing aboard the bandwagon here too, thanks to the largely standalone nature of the sequel. Last, but not least: although there’s (sadly) no post-credits scene where Paddington is recruited to join the Avengers initiative by Nick Fury, you would do best to not leave the theater the moment that the end credits on Paddington 2 start rolling.
Paddington 2 is now playing in U.S. theaters nationwide. It is 104 minutes long and is rated PG for some action and mild rude humor.
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