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Sometimes we all need help picking the right movie for the family. In this case, I relied on the advice of fellow critic Courtney Howard (a great writer) as she gushed about Paddington 2, a special film that taps into something that cuts across all demographics. What a joy this film is.  

How could a film with this simple of a premise have such a profound effect on everyone? Perhaps in a world that seems to be dominated by negativity, the tale of Paddington, a bear who wants nothing more than to spread a message of friendship, is exactly what the doctor ordered.

Director Paul King and screenwriter Simon Farnaby have developed a story that’s equal parts colorful and poignant. The themes of family, friendship, and love are woven throughout, and the levity Paddington provides strikes the perfect balance. Ben Whishaw is perfection as his voice brings the iconic character to life. Sally Hawkins, Hugh Bonneville, Madeline Harris, Jim Broadbent,  and Julie Walters return to round out the supporting cast. While the story centers around a case of mistaken identity that leads to our favorite bear being accused of theft, it’s Paddington’s heart that takes center stage.

While London provides a wistful, romantic quality, it’s the scenes in Windsor Garden that stand out. Paddington spends most of his time doing good deeds for his fellow neighbors, not worried about who they are or where they come from, just focused on brightening their day. Of course, this leads to some comedic hi-jinks (many of which are seen in the trailer) but it’s the look of astonishment on their faces which stays with ya. In a world that seems drab and dreary at times, Paddington is a glimmer of hope for the local residents. The impact of kindness is revisited throughout the film.

One of the sequences that stands out is how the film set up Paddington’s desire to bring Aunt Lucy to London. Rather than explaining this through some sort of tired flashback, they make clever use of a pop-up book – which becomes a central item in this story. As each page morphed into another, another part of Paddington’s dear aunt’s potential journey was shown. A charming way for this part of the story to unfold.

Perhaps the highlight of the whole film was seeing Hugh Grant’s as the scoundrel, Phoenix Buchannan. Grant is so smarmy and cheezy as the former A-list celebrity who has ulterior motives. Some have scoffed at the notion of Grant receiving this level of praise for such an odd role, but it’s warranted.

While January often leaves movie lovers with little options to choose from, it appears Paddington 2 has given us something to gravitate towards. Stay clear of regurgitated sequels that involve Liam Neeson and go visit Paddington Brown of Windsor Garden. While he might not have a special set of skills, what he will do is warm your heart.