Paddington 2 (2017)
Director: Paul King | Runtime: 1h 43mins | Comedy, Adventure
After happily settling in with the Browns in London, Paddington tries to find the perfect present for Aunt Lucy’s 100th birthday. Whilst in Mr Gruber’s antique shop, he notices a pop-up book being sold on behalf of a passing carnival, and finds a series of jobs to help pay for it, only for the book to be stolen right in front of him.
For those that have seen Paddington (2014) when it was first released, you were likely surprised by the quality of the feature adaption of Michael Bond’s stories. It was charming, fun and a quintessential wholesome family film, with Bond himself thoroughly enjoying it, going as far to say “There’s so much in it that’s quite magical. I’d give it full marks.” With this sort of praise, it’s hard to reach the same heights and not disappoint. Paddington 2, however, improves upon its predecessor in almost every way, not just recreating that magic the first captured but establishing itself as one of the best and most heartwarming family films for years.
Choosing what to praise first is a difficult task, but Ben Whishaw returning as the voice of Paddington not only cements him as the perfect casting but acts as a wonderfully role model to the younger ones in the audience, his polite, loving nature radiating in every scene. One of the most remarkable aspects of both Paddington 2 and it’s fore-bearer are how it highlights the importance of kindness without preaching, and keeping a exciting, intriguing story, all channelled through the eyes of Paddington. The sequel follows in suite of the first, with the young bear actually going without an arc, and instead influencing the arcs of all the characters around him, again highlighting the importance of niceties to the younger ones watching, showing that you can help make everyone that bit happier by just been nice.
This certainly doesn’t take away from the rest of the cast around Whishaw though, as the chemistry between them has far from faded since the first film, and all do a wonderful job of interacting with a bear that’s all CG. All of the Browns return, the kids slightly more grown up and each given their distinctive roles that impact the narrative throughout. Sally Hawkins revisits her role as Mary Brown, the adventure book illustrator who longs for a bit more excitement herself. Luckily she’s given much more to work with in comparison to the first and really shines, not just as a engaging character but a brilliantly funny actress too, a faux insurance appraisal scene with husband Henry (Hugh Bonneville) really standing out as one of her most entertaining sequences.
There’s many excellent performances from all of the supporting cast; Ben Miller, Jessica Hynes, Julie Walters and everyone of the prisoners (Brendan Gleeson bringing his brilliance in every scene), but really there is no one more show-stealing than Hugh Grant, who pulls a performance that you may have look as far back as Love Actually (2003) to compare too. The main foil to young Paddington, Grant’s hugely egotistical Phoenix Buchanan uses his acting skills to disguise himself as a range of personalities in order to steal the pop-up book Paddington desires, and unravel the secret of the treasure map it hides, something he desires to reignite his waining acting career.
As much as the cast are near perfect from top to bottom, little would be achieved without the co-writing and direction of Paul King, whose approach really brings all the elements together that make this film such a success. Many scenes are superbly creative and inspired, from Paddington showing Aunt Lucy London in a fully animated sequence through a pop-up book that really tugs the heart strings, to the train chase and the many excellently crafted comedic scenes, like the barber shop and any of the events that take place in prison.
Even with a soft, subtle political message of anti-Brexit Paddington 2 is a film everyone can enjoy, a true family adventure with a lovely centre of kindness and warmth, it is the perfect time for a piece of cinema like this to come out, where everything seems to be doom and gloom Paddington is a little block of happiness and a film that everyone should have the pleasure of watching.