With the original having been an unexpected delight, anticipation for “Paddington 2” was sky high. Could the little bear from Peru pull off the ‘difficult’ second movie? The answer is an unqualified ‘yes’.
Determined to get his Aunt Lucy a special present for her 100th birthday, Paddington (Ben Wishaw) sets his heart on a unique pop-up book of London and gets a job to earn the money to buy it. Paddington’s efforts bring the book to the attention of fading star Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant) who believes the book may be the key to locating a long-lost treasure. When the book is stolen, Paddington finds himself framed for the theft and sent to jail. Will he manage to clear his name and get his paws on the book in time for Aunt Lucy’s birthday?
There isn’t a movie franchise I can recall which so perfectly captures the spirit and ethos of its source material as well as the “Paddington” films do. This is wonderful, delightful family entertainment, uncynically heart-warming and beautifully composed. Paddington presents us with the world as it should and could be: an unfailingly kind and understanding place, free of the toxic didactic tribalism which dominates real life. It’s a beacon of pure, wholesome light in a shamefully dark world.
This is a gentle adventure, full of comic fun and mild peril, anchored at every turn by the presence of Paddington himself who gently admonishes those who fall below his standards for goodness and decency but shows by example that his brand of sincere kindness makes the world a better place for everyone. Gentle it may be, but it’s also exquisitely plotted, with every silly little seemingly inconsequential detail paying off at some point in the story. There’s a hint of magic about the movie, from the lovely nod to the classic “Paddington” TV series through to the slapstick antics in the prison, everything is sprinkled with happiness.
The returning cast brings a comforting familiarity to a story which sees the unlikely emergence of Hugh Bonneville and Sally Hawkins as actions stars and in Hugh Grant, the film finds a villain and an actor worthy of it. Since “Cloud Atlas”, Grant has been carving out an understated career renaissance as a character actor and he’s infinitely more interesting an actor to watch now than he was during his affable romantic comedy days. And Grant isn’t alone in bringing his best to this wonderfully crafted movie, Brendan Gleeson leads a veritable who’s who of British talent popping up in every conceivable guest role and why wouldn’t they? It’s sheer perfection, warm, comforting, life-affirming and kept the entire Craggus clan spellbound and enchanted, especially me and Mrs Craggus.
By the way, if you’re wondering why I haven’t mentioned the special effects or CGI creation of the title character himself, it’s because at no point during the one hour forty-three minutes of bliss that is “Paddington 2” did it ever occur to me that Paddington was anything other than 100% real. Anyone who says otherwise will be on the business end of a Very Hard Stare.