Dir. Paul King
Starring: Ben Winshaw, Hugh Grant, Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent, Brendan Gleason
When Paddington arrived in 2014, stepping off the train at the station he was named after, we were treated to a family classic much better than anything we could have hoped for. A film which pleased all ages with its sense of British charm. Expectations were high for the sequel and it’s with great joy, and relief, that I can say that Paddington 2 is as good as, if not better than its predecessor.
The plot revolves around Paddington, voiced by Ben Winshaw and still living with the Brown family, finding an old pop up book of London in Jim Broadbent’s antique shop. The book will make a perfect gift for his Aunt Lucy, his adoptive mother who now lives at the home for retired bears in Peru, and who has always dreamt of seeing London. Paddington starts to save up for the book, in a sequence which hilariously shows him trying his hand at a number of jobs, best of which is his brief stint as a barbers assistant. Things go awry though when Hugh Grant’s has-been actor hears about the book and steals it, leaving Paddington to take the fall. The Brown family will have to clear Paddington name, whilst Paddington tries to survive prison and, in particular, head chef Knuckles, played fantastically by Brendan Gleason.
The film is a joy from start to finish. “Nice and polite makes everything alright” is something Paddington learned from his Aunt, and this film follows that advice to the letter. Paul King conjures up a fictionalised version of London which comes across as though Wes Anderson has directed an episode of BBC’s Sherlock. It’s not quite the London we know, but it’s the London we wish we could live in, or perhaps could if we followed Aunt Lucy’s advice too. The CGI is fantastic, with Paddington a perfectly believeable creation, brought to life with warmth and innocence by Winshaw. The comedy is mainly slapstick, and always laugh out loud funny, relying on the Buster Keaton-esque antics of the titular bear, but beneath this humour is a huge beating heart. You will laugh, and you will cry.
Another delight of the film is watching top actors understanding exactly what type of film they are in, and giving there all. Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, and Julia Walters all return, and are all terrific as the family whose lives have been touched and affected by the bear. Brendan Gleason as mentioned before is also great as a prison chef. It’s to Paul King’s credit that whilst Paddington does go to prison, this is not the darker sequel, and the tone is always kept light, avoiding the taxidermist mis-step the first film made. Full regard must go to Hugh Grant though, who gamely switches to full scenery chewing mode as the villain of the piece, has-been actor Phoenix Buchanan. Grant is a revelation, giving us a performance completely unexpected.
From beginning to to end this film is completely entertaining. The effects and character work completely melding together to give you a story which will thrill you, make you laugh, and make you cry in equal measure. This is no more evident than the final act. A steam-train chase which shows that no matter how much money, explosions, and cgi you through at a film, nothing is as thrilling or compelling than having characters you’re actually invested in and care about. It’s the rare sequel that’s as good as the first, now I just can’t wait to see Paddington 3.