Paddington 2 Review
In times like this we need a hero that can make everything better; and it’s not someone in a cape or with a magic hammer, shield or whatnot, it’s a bear from darkest Peru in a blue duffle coat and with a taste for marmalade sandwiches.
Paddington (voiced by Ben Whishaw) has been settling into life with the Brown family; Mr. Brown (Hugh Bonneville), Mrs. Brown (Sally Hawkins), Jonathan (Samuel Joslin), Judy (Madeline Harris), and Mrs. Bird (Julie Waters). He wants to send a birthday present to his aunt Lucy (voiced by Imelda Staunton), but after a misunderstanding poor Paddington ends up in prison. He’ll need the help of prison chef Knuckles McGinty (Brendan Gleeson) to find the real criminal, and there’s something quite suspicious about the Brown’s neighbour Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant).
In 2014 the live action Paddington was a surprise delight of the year. It was funny, fun, warm, and captured everything that made the books by the dearly departed Michael Bond, such a special part of British culture. Paddington 2 has all of that in spades and more, becoming a sequel equal to and, even in many ways, surpassing the first. There are more laughs, more shenanigans, and somehow even more heart. What some people don’t realise is that a truly great family film is one that appeals to everyone in a family, it isn’t just a children’s movie that the parents get dragged to. Paddington 2 never talks down to its audience or goes for simple or crude humour. It is sharp; with pitch perfect delivery and timing that will have even the most stone faced chortling along. The pacing is quick and will satisfy even those little ones with the shortest of attention spans. London is shot with a kind of soft storybook quality, with a particular animated sequence reminiscent of the old Paddington children’s show that it utterly delightful. This film is pure storytelling at its best.
The cast of colourful characters are a delight, with Ben Whishaw continuing to be perfect as our titular ursine. Hugh Bonneville is charmingly awkward and Sally Hawkins in particular you just want to wrap you in a great big hug. The real standouts though are newcomers Brendan Gleeson, whose tough guy with a heart of gold Knuckles is an unexpectedly effective straight man opposite Paddington’s antics, and Hugh Grant, who is clearly having the time of his life and just about steals every scene he’s in playing self obsessed actor Phoenix. It all comes together in a train chase of epic steam powered proportions that is as entertaining as it is silly.
The real strength of Paddington as a character is in his utmost sincerity and his belief in kindness and manners which brings people together. In his eyes, everything will work out if we just are nice to each other, and as you watch this film you begin to firmly believe that too, even when he’s in prison and everything goes a bit Wes Anderson. Paddington’s story is one of family and acceptance, finding his place as an immigrant in London as a city of diversity. Yes, it’s simple and a little idealistic, but Paddington 2 is also exactly what we need at the moment.