Written By: Nick Poulimenakos
2015’s Paddington was a film that, quite frankly, nobody saw coming. The film about an adorable bear from Peru coming to live with a lovable English family proved to be one of the best films of that year, being remembered for its light-hearted fun and terrific acting performances. Now, 2018 sees the release of Paddington 2. For most, a sequel to an already great film creates uncertainty. Can the cast and crew recreate the magic of the first film? In the case of Paddington 2. Absolutely. Once again, director Paul King and co-writer Simon Farnaby have struck gold as Paddington 2 is a fun but also emotional feature that will be remembered as one of the best family films in recent memory.
Paddington 2 follows the marmalade loving Paddington, who is now living comfortably with the Brown family in West London. Becoming a popular member of his community, Paddington spends his day spreading joy, eating marmalade and trying to look for a job. One day, he spots a pop-up book in an antique shop, one that would be the perfect present for his Aunt Lucy’s 100th birthday. However, when a thief steals the prized book and Paddington is framed for the crime, he must embark on an epic adventure to unmask the culprit and clear his name before Aunt Lucy’s big celebration.
It is clear from the opening few minutes that Paddington 2 is what every sequel should strive to be. The viewer is introduced to the driving family theme during the first moments of the film as the meeting between Aunt Lucy and Paddington is shown. From there, Paul King immerses the audience in a beautiful, fun-filled feature that never betrays the world that has already been established. He manages to not only tell a heartfelt story about family, but includes some of the funniest slapstick comedy moments which include Paddington becoming a barber and a hilariously directed sequence involving a prison kitchen. Everything on screen feels organic and never forced, allowing for a light and incredibly fun cinematic experience.
Unlike the first film, Paddington 2 weaves together two plots. One involving Paddington’s family trying to figure out who framed him, and the adorable ursine attempting to win over a fearsome prison inmate. While other films this past year struggled with separating its leads for different plot threads, Paddington 2 acts as a wonderful example of how to properly execute this type of film. Both eventually converge in the end and director Paul King delivers a sophisticated, stylish and visually stunning feature that keeps the balance between pleasure and story. It will entertain children and adults alike as both plot points sparkles with whimsical and kind-hearted humor that does not overstay its welcome.
What makes Paddington 2 considerably better than its predecessor is the fact that it embraces several darker aspects that one would not expect to see in a family film. Paddington is in jail and the film does not shy away from showing his feelings of loneliness and heartache, allowing for the audience to feel real sympathy for the protagonist. It opts to challenge the audience, giving them a story that deals with empathy as well as adventure, with the end result being a film that has a positive message that incredibly well-timed.
As expected, the main cast once again shines in this sequel. Ben Whishaw returns as the titular bear and is truly exceptional in the role. Paddington is still the same naïve, optimistic and charming hero fans remember from the first film and Whishaw continues to shine, bringing a superb combination of gentleness and resourcefulness to the performance. Sally Hawkins and Hugh Bonneville are also back as Mr. and Mrs. Brown and have such captivating chemistry. It is a treat to watch the two interact and bicker on screen as if they are a real married couple. It is clear the pair have a deep love for Paddington and wish to see him happy and Hawkins and Bonneville add the right amount of fantastical and hilarity to the film. In what might be his best performance to date, Hugh Grant stars as the film’s main antagonist, Phoenix Buchanan and the character is an absolute show-stealer. Never venturing into hammy territory, Grant is charismatic but still menacing as the failed actor. You still manage to feel the slightest bit of sympathy for the character despite his evil motivations and its all credited Grant’s undeniable likability in the role. Finally, in a surprisingly terrific performance, Brendan Gleeson stars as Knuckles McGinty. Despite being a supporting character, he is given a worthy character arc, going from hardened criminal to Paddington’s ally and it is wonderfully entertaining.
If Paddington 2 has any flaws, it is that the ending could have used more resolution. The film wraps up relatively quickly to the point where you wish a character or two could have gotten a few more words in to give the story a nicer closing.
Paddington 2 will be remembered as one of the great “feel-good” movies of the year. Not only does it keep everything you loved about the first film, it successfully ventures into a new direction that will have you smiling from beginning to end. It takes risks but never manages to lose sight of its emotional core that will translate well with parents while still making children happy. Filled with wonderful performances, slapstick comedy and a mature story, Paddington 2 honors its protagonist’s rich history with a sweet-natured adventure that is purely enjoyable for all ages.
Nick’s Rating – 9/10
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