PLOT: When a special book that Paddington wants to buy his Aunt Lucy is stolen, the kind-hearted bear is arrested for the crime. Thankfully, he has the Brown family – and a brand new group of ruffians he meets in jail – help him clear his name and search for the real culprit.
REVIEW: One of the biggest surprises of 2014 was the family comedy PADDINGTON. Based on the popular children’s books, the adventures of a young bear cub who finds a home with a family in London was a sweetly charming adventure. Writer/director Paul King managed to make a film that both children and adults could entertain in. And now, in 2018, King and co-writer Simon Farnaby have taken this delightful story to a brand new level. PADDINGTON 2 brings back the original cast – as well as a few fresh faces – with Ben Whishaw once again lending his voice to the bear who happens to love marmalade. As good as it was the first time around, the sequel is yet another example of how impressive a movie about a bear walking around London can be with a smart script and a talented filmmaker and cast.
Since we last saw PADDINGTON, he had found a loving home with the Brown family. Even then, he still misses his Aunt Lucy (voiced by Imelda Staunton) who he always writes and tells her about the life he has found. With Lucy’s birthday coming up, Paddington wants to send her a very special present, an expensive pop-up book on the sights of London. Realizing he cannot afford it, the lovable bear takes on a series of odd jobs so he can purchase it. Unfortunately for him, the long lost book is also a map to a secret treasure. When a new neighbor – an ego-driven actor past his prime, played brilliantly by Hugh Grant – finds out about the prized book, he plots to steal it before Paddington can get to it. Once the villain has the book in his possession, he frames Paddington who is quickly convicted of the crime. In an effort to clear his name, Mary and Henry Brown (Sally Hawkins and Hugh Bonneville) along with the rest of the family attempt to find the real culprit, and free the beloved bear.
In this day and age, family films can be much more than a hour and a half toy commercial. This is especially true for PADDINGTON 2. While the young ones are likely to ask for a bear of their own, the movie itself is magical, captivating and heartfelt, a wonderful storybook come to life. Ben Whishaw brings real heart to Paddington and his understanding of the world around him. As well, the effects are outstanding. Paddington feels very real and it’s impossible not to be taken in by his sweet-natured heart of gold. After the bear is wrongly accused of grand larceny, he ends up behind bars with a few rough and tumble characters. You'll find that even the prisoners were a delight. Lead by the wonderfully talented Brendan Gleeson, the convicts he meets can’t resist this adorable little bear. These particular sequences are funny and engaging, and most importantly, the film balances this with the Brown families investigations especially well.
As good as Nicole Kidman was hamming it up the first time around, Hugh Grant is truly exceptional. The actor inhabits the role of Phoenix Buchanan as a sly and exaggerated version of himself. It is brilliantly entertaining to say the least. Grant certainly gets the humor and is having a terrific time wearing a variety of costumes and parodying his own impressive career. Buchanan lives in a home surrounded by images of himself from Grant's real life previous movies. He also keeps an attic full of character costumes which comes into play as he attempts to track down the lost fortune. The actor brings on the charm, and adds a nice touch to the villainous Phoenix. It’s almost worth watching just for the dog food commercial he appears alone.
When it comes to the supporting players, you really couldn’t do much better than this cast. Sally Hawkins, fresh off a wildly impressive year of fantastic performances, is lovely as Mary Brown. Hugh Bonneville loosens up for the sequel, and the chemistry between them is infectious. Even the Brown children played by Madeleine Harris and Samuel Joslin add a level of fun to this endearing family. And then there is Julie Walters as Ms. Bird who once again steals nearly every scene. If you don’t fall in love with Paddington himself – you will! – you won’t want to miss this exceptional cast.
Much like the first film, King brings his own style by using live action, bits of animation, miniature sets and more. When it comes to crafting an exciting action sequence, he pulls off a few of those as well. Most importantly however, this sequel doesn’t just feel like a bigger budget version of the first film, the latest feels just as fresh and certainly just as entertaining. In fact, the sequel exceeds the first thanks to more time with the Brown family and the entire prison sequence. My only minor complaint would be the same with the first film, a couple of the misadventures that Paddington gets in can last just a little too long and feel slighly redundant.
PADDINGTON 2 is a modern day storybook come to life. Exceeding the impressive original film, this family comedy is smartly crafted and offers a fresh approach in telling a fish out of water fable. The film also features a fantastic group of actors who all joyfully embrace the material. Sally Hawkins and Hugh Bonneville are excellent, and Hugh Grant gives one of his most inspired performances to date. And let us not forget Julie Walters and Paddington himself, Ben Whishaw. PADDINGTON 2 pulls you in with its humor, just as it is getting ready to bring a tear to your eye. This is a perfect film for all audiences.