Paddington is back and he is up for more misadventures in the follow-up to the 2014 family film and is already a hit in the UK.
Paddington (Ben Whishaw) has settled in London, bringing joy to the residents of Windsor Gardens. His Aunt Lucy (Imelda Staunton) is about to celebrate her 100th birthday and the little bear is determined to find the perfect present. After finding one of a kind pop-up book of London, Paddington joins the workforce so he can buy it. But the book is even more valuable than anyone realized – leading to Paddington getting arrested and the Brown family have to prove his innocence.
The original Paddington was a huge hit around the world but a sequel still seemed like a big ask. Even writer/director Paul King admitted that the theme of the original Paddington was to bring the Brown family together and obviously the bear did that by the end of the first film, so it was going to be a tricky task to continue the series. Somehow King and his co-writer Simon Farnaby managed that.
One of the main reasons why the original film was so successful was its emotional core and Paddington’s kind heart and the sequel preserves this. Paddington 2 starts with a prologue showing how the bear came into the care of his aunt and uncle and he has a simple goal – earn money so he can buy the book: yet that act leads to an adventure for the whole Brown family. Paddington continues to follow the life lessons his Aunt Lucy gave him – that if you are kind and polite you will make friends: even with hardened criminals.
In the previous film Henry (Hugh Bonneville) and Jonathan (Samuel Joslin) were the members of the Brown family that Paddington spends the most time with and Henry was the member who changed the most. Henry had to learn to loosen up, accept that life is full of danger and accept the bear into his home. Paddington 2 give Mary (Sally Hawkins) and Judy (Madeleine Harris) a more prominent role: Mary craves adventure and even training to swim across the English Channel and Judy has changed from embarrassed teenager to aspiring journalist. They are the ones who drive the investigation to prove Paddington’s innocence.
Hugh Grant played the villain of the piece, Phoenix Buchanan, a self-centered actor and a master of disguise. He clearly was having a blast, trying on different accents and a lighter-hearted villain than Nicole Kidman was. Buchanan has his own quest looking for clues for a hidden treasure and he gives the film an excuse to go sight-seeing at some of London’s most landmarks like St. Paul Cathedral and the Tower of London.
There is also an expansion of the cast. Brendan Gleeson has one of the biggest roles as Nuckles McGinty, the fear-inducing prison cook who Paddington get to soften his hard shell and together they end up making prison a more bearable place. The residents of Windsor Gardens get a more prominent role: Ben Miller and Jessica Hynes have a mini-arc as The Colonel and Miss Kitts, the newsagents and recognizable actors like Sanjeev Bhaskar (Goodness Gracious Me) and Robbie Gee (Snatch) are noticeable as residents that Paddington helps out. There are also a few cameos from some major British personalities but some might not have the impact to audiences outside the British Isles.
King has a distinctive visual style as a director and he brought that to the original. There was a lot of flair and visual jokes that helped Paddington stand out from the crowd of family films. He does it again, the best visual gags being in the prison regarding Paddington’s mishaps and one of the most unique sequences was a fantasy sequence when Paddington and Lucy take a tour of London in the pop-up book – the look pays homage to the 1970s animated series. Yet King seems to be toning down the use of his directional tricks which is baffling considering it was one of King’s strength as a director.
The big sequence at the end of the film involves a chase involving two steam trains. It was reminiscent to something from another classic British children’s property: Wallace and Gromit. Like the finale in many Wallace and Gromit shorts and its movie the train chase in Paddington 2 is a busy sequence as different members of the Brown family play their part in different areas like cogs in a machine.
Paddington 2 is a wonderfully British family film which has tons of heart and comedy for all ages. It is a slight downgrade to the original film but it is a better than the bulk of family films to come out and easily one of best CGI/Live-action hybrids.