Given how successful 2014’s Paddington reboot was, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the sequel was always going to struggle to live up to the hype and quality of the first outing of everyone’s favourite marmalade sandwich loving, trench coat wearing little bear cub.
Alas, It’s my pleasure to report that Paddington 2, coming to us after the sunny perspective of a visiting bear and his adoptive family has been proven more and more unpopular in the real world, is as lovely and brilliant as its predecessor.
We pick up with the family right where we left them, Jonathan and Judy now teenagers and Henry Brown (Hugh Bonneville) just about to enter with a midlife crisis brought on by the promotion of a much younger colleague into a position he’d been banking on getting.
All is well until Paddington (Ben Whishaw) spots a pop-up book of London in Mr Gruber’s (Jim Broadbent) shop, vowing to buy it for Aunt Lucy (Imelda Staunton) using money from his window cleaning business.
He accidentally lets the existence of the book slip to washed up actor and confirmed psychopath Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant), who promptly steals, prompting a chase through the streets of London including a dog, a goose and some ultimately unexplained magic trickery. This leaves Paddington to take the blame. With no proof that he didn’t take it, Our favourite bear cub is incarcerated and must rely on the Browns best detective instincts to set him free.
As more and more misfortune falls on Paddington– there’s a delightful cameo, gag or impressive action sequence just around the corner. That isn’t a balance that’s easy to strike, but screenwriters Paul King and Simon Farnaby have done it again here.
The casting is a triumph, there are endless well loved British actors at every turn, someone you will have no doubt seen in something before regardless of what your tastes are– from the Forensic Investigator (Richard Ayoade) and T-Bone (Tom Davis) to the familiar voice of Uncle Pastuzo (Michael Gambon) you’ll be constantly thinking “I’ve seen/heard them in something before….”
Pretty much every frame of the film offers something to entertain everyone in the audience, whether it’s seeing Brendan Gleeson or Peter Capaldi really make something special out of their supporting roles, or the slapstick comedy that manages never to push things over the line of too childish. Just those little background touches go such a long way, and will almost certainly reward repeat viewings.
Hugh Grant’s performance as washed up West End star Phoenix Buchanan is fantastic– blending overt send-up of his celebrity persona (at one point we see his home adorned with old promo shots of Grant in his rom-com days) and a truly surprising comedic performance in its own right as he plays the many personalities Buchanan adorns throughout.
If we peel away the japery, slapstick moments and celebrity cameos There’s the running theme of families sticking up for each other and putting each other first. The film opens with Aunt Lucy and Uncle Pastuzo planning their trip to London with it’s rivers of marmalade and roads of bread, but we know they never get there. Instead, they save a small cub from the river, and swear right then he’ll go far.
In a world where high octane action is currently all the rage– Paddington 2 is here to simply remind us to be kind and generous towards each other, and that it will likely come back around if we do so.
I’m racking my brain to think of a sequel which bettered the first but Paddington 2 is filled to the brim with the same loving charm, wit and humour that resuscitated the character for a new generation back in 2014.
Paddington 2 offers up a world in which the character’s mantra of “if you’re kind and polite, everything will come right” is actually true, and that heroes can come in all shapes and sizes. We could all use a little of that.
So get yourself down to a cinema near you while we’re in a bit of a lull, before the new Star Wars and Jumanji films hit the flicks and give this charming little bear a couple of hours of your time. I know he’ll appreciate it.
You can get a little more Paddington in the heart warming Christmas advert for Marks and Spencers.