Aunt Lucy’s 100th birthday is fast approaching and Paddington (Ben Whishaw) is desperate to find the perfect gift for her, which he decides is a pop-up book of London. Now the problem is that pop-up books don’t come cheap and bears don’t generally have a great deal of disposable income, so Paddington is forced to find himself a job so that he can afford the book. Disaster strikes when the book is stolen by a mysterious thief and Paddington is sent to prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Like the A-Team.
It’s no secret that I absolutely loved 2014’s Paddington especially as it ended up in my top 10 films of 2014 but I was still a little apprehensive when I heard there was going to be a sequel. What would it cover, do we need more world building or more background to much loved characters? Would it go down the usual sequel path and create a deeper narrative, with a darker, grittier tone? Well no, that would be ridiculous but a sequel to a much loved film always gives me an unusual feeling of anticipation with a side of creeping dread.
Thankfully there was absolutely no need to worry, Paddington 2 manages to build on the original and produce something that is equally, if not more, enjoyable. The plot of Paddington 2 is as straightforward as you can get but that’s no bad thing. I’m perhaps one of the biggest fans of superhero films but sometimes you need a nice palate cleanser, something without a complicated timeline, a broader overarching narrative or the need to seed several spin off franchises – unless of course we’re due to get a film about The Colonel and the lady with the parrot that sells newspapers, because then I’m in. Paddington 2 might do something that is, on paper, quite straightforward but it manages to do it with such care and attention that the end result is wonderful.
I think the best way to sum up Paddington 2 is that it feels like a warm hug of a film, a friendly familiar face that just makes you feel like everything is going to be alright. I’ve written before about a number of comedies feeling quite ‘mean spirited’ but Paddington 2 doesn’t have an ounce of malice anywhere to be found. It is a very funny film, I think I can safely say I laughed more in this film than anything else that I’ve seen this year but I never felt like the felt was generating laughs at the expense of any of the characters. There was no clear divide of kids jokes and jokes especially for the adults in the audience, which is often the standard template for a movie like this, it’s just a lot of situations that are universally funny.
Ben Whishaw again proves that he is the only choice to play Paddington, despite the role originally nearly ending up with Colin Firth. I think I said this last time but he manages to inject so much personality into Paddington that he feels like an extremely well-rounded character. It’s a really good mixture of innocence and wisdom, that feels so perfectly balanced. The addition of Hugh Grant as the Phoenix Buchanan, the villain of the piece, is really an inspired bit of casting and Hugh Grant gives one of his best performances for quite a long time. His character is a washed up actor who at one stage in his career was incredibly successful but is now reduced to opening fairs or doing dog food commercials. Grant plays the character so well, in what is a ridiculously camp, over the top performance that manages to hit the mark on so many levels. The other stand out new addition is probably Brendon Gleeson as Knuckles McGinty, one of Paddington’s jailhouse friends, who manages to balance being a bit scary and also really likeable and vulnerable at the same time.
I love Paddington 2, it’s a breath of fresh (and relaxing) air in an otherwise stressful world. The central message of the film is just how much small acts of kindness can do to change the outlook of a whole community. In fact in that respect it’s not a million miles from It’s a Wonderful Life, as one of the film’s central messages is just how much good one bear can bring to the world around them. I think that’s a pretty decent message to be sending out at the moment. I know that next week I’ll probably end up going to watch the latest (terrible) DCEU offering in the shape of Justice League, with all of the smash-crash-what a CGI action that has to offer but I really shouldn’t, you know. I should just go and watch Paddington 2 again.