I don’t know how the first Paddington film became as good as it is. Considering that the trailers made it look awful and the late cast changes in regards to who provides the voice of the titular bear, I was actually expecting the worst. But to everyone’s shock, it turned out to be one of the best family films of that year. Or even one of the best films of that year.
Full of charm, heart, British wit, visual invention and a refreshing lack of postmodernism and pop culture references, Paddington was a genuine and welcome surprise for all. So when there was news that a second film was going to be made, I was excited beyond belief. With all the cast and crew from the original returning (bar Nicole Kidman, of course) and with Hugh Grant, Brendan Gleeson and others playing new characters, will the film live up to the original?
After the events of the original film, Paddington (voiced by Ben Whishaw) has nestled in nicely with the Brown family (consisting of Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Madeleine Harris, Samuel Joslin and Julie Walters) and has become a hit in the neighbourhood.
Still communicating to his Aunt Lucy (voiced by Imelda Staunton) via letter, Paddington plans to get her a special birthday present in the form of a pop-up book. Realizing how expensive and valuable the book is, Paddington works as a window cleaner to earn the money.
And just as he is close to achieving his goal, a ragged thief steals the book from the antique store owned by Samuel Gruber (Jim Broadbent). Failing to catch the thief, Paddington ends up taking the fall for the crime and is sent to prison.
Will Paddington ever get to send Aunt Lucy the perfect birthday present? Will the Brown family ever catch the thief and clear Paddington‘s name? Will Paddington survive his time in prison?
To get off track of this review a tiny morsel, over the course of my life, I’ve never tried marmalade before. But if I were to try it, it would have an immense lot to live up to in comparison to this wondrous film.
Everything that made the original such a joy is back in the sequel. The extravagantly colourful cinematography by Erik Wilson is more bold than ever to the point that this film has the most beautiful looking prison I’ve ever seen. Dario Marianelli (who replaces Nick Urata) unsurprisingly provides a magically stirring score that adds to the storybook vibe of the film.
And the script by director Paul King and Simon Farnaby (who reprises his small role as Barry) never forgets the lightness of tone and sweet humour and storytelling that made the previous film so successful. They give the characters ample screentime and moments that are all satisfying arcs that foreshadow a fantastic punchline or an emotional moment.
Even some of the more daring humour packs a punch i.e. when Mrs. Bird despises a particular occupation. And once again, the film thankfully does away with the modernities to keep its storybook vibe intact (i.e. no mobile phones) and keeps the classic elements like phone booths and steam trains. Speaking of steam trains, the action sequences are terrific in terms of thrills and visual humour that is reminiscent of Wes Anderson or even Harold Lloyd.
But let’s not forget the wonderful cast. The regulars are all enjoyable to watch and they clearly haven’t lost a step. Ben Whishaw is again spot-on as Paddington, as he provides the perfect balance of sincerity, sweetness, heart and conviction. Sally Hawkins is a hoot as she conveys Mary’s unhinged thirst for adventure while Peter Capaldi is clearly making the most out of his screen-time as the lovably annoying neighbour Mr. Curry.
Even the supporting actors of various amounts of screen-time (including Jessica Hynes, Joanna Lumley, Sanjay Bhaskar and others) add much joy to the film. There’s one particular cameo which I will not spoil that had the audience laugh out loud when he showed up.
But the new actors coming in are the stand-outs here. Brendan Gleeson, who’s no slouch to comedy or family films (as In Bruges and the Harry Potter films clearly indicate) and he is an incredibly good sport as Nuckles McGinty, the prison cook. He clearly knows the material and adapts his performance to it perfectly, making a surprising companion (Or is he?) to Paddington.
And there’s of course, Hugh Grant. One of the most self-deprecating actors on the planet, in Paddington 2, he takes it up another step as washed-out theatre actor, Phoenix Buchanan (A true stage name, if there ever was one.). In the film, he basically plays multiple roles (ranging from a ragged hobo to a nun of all people) and he relishes every single one of them. Whether he is equipped with small throwaway gags (like missing a cravat) or dressing up in silly costumes (like a dog costume), Grant nails the part with gusto.
As for its flaws, I honestly can’t really think of any. Apart from some gags I missed out because I was laughing so much and some of the CGI/green-screen effects in the action scenes being quite noticeable, those barely even qualify as nitpicks.
Overall, Paddington 2 is a wonderful sequel that the whole family will enjoy and it will certainly bring a smile to one’s face. Now I’m off to go and try marmalade for the first time before Paddington gives me the hard stare. Just kidding!
Review Score: FOUR AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Paddington 2 is releasing in cinemas on 21st December 2017.