In a way, ‘Paddington 2’ is like ‘The Dark Knight’; it may not be the sequel we need right now, but it is the sequel we deserve. In a month where we are exposed to cinematic garbage, Paul King’s continuation of the well-received family comedy/sleeper hit manages to rise, not from Peru like its title character, but from London to America in order to set things right. It is as sweet as a marmalade sandwich and will warm your heart like a cup of hot cocoa in the middle of Winter. Might I add, it is also a charming addition to the library of children’s talking-animal films, and ranks along with the likes of ‘Babe: Pig in the City’ and ‘Stuart Little 2’ as one of the most charming talking-animal movie sequels.
Most of the charm comes – as you would expect – from the character of Paddington – The Peruvian bear with the naive innocence of a child and a sweet tooth for marmalade sandwiches that has been amazing young and old alike since his debut in 1958; created by Michael Bond as the subject of a series of children’s books starring the title character, starting with ‘A Bear Called Paddington’. Bond’s work has also been adapted into a 1975 children’s animated series titled simply ‘Paddington Bear’ (along with many others in the following years), and later the live-action/computer-animated movie (Fact: British actor Colin Firth was originally the voice of Paddington until he quit the project and ended up being replaced by Ben Whishaw); it was a critical and financial hit securing the sequel (which I will gladly talk about now).
The sequel follows Paddington (Whishaw) as he goes about his life with The Brown Family, writing letters to Aunt Lucy (Voice of Imelda Staunton), and helping others with their everyday tasks – as you expect the little brown bear to do; while The Browns are faced with new opportunities as well as dilemmas; Henry (Hugh Bonneville) is worried that he is facing old age, Mary (Now Academy Award Nominee – Sally Hawkins) is training to be a swimmer, Judy (Madeleine Harris) is now working as a newspaper printer in order to become a journalist, Jonathan (Samuel Joslin) has put his childhood dreams of astronautics and engineering to become the cool kid at school, and Mrs. Bird (Julie Walters) is still Mrs. Bird. However, no matter where life takes them, their love for Paddington has grown stronger than ever. You could say the same for the townspeople (except Peter Capaldi’s Mr. Curry – who is still the skeptic neighbor and the film’s local outcast shamer) who have quickly come to accept Paddington as a member of society – as if a talking bear is nothing new (I am lucky that this film is filled to the brim with charm).
Being that this is a sequel to a comedy, you would expect the attempts at slapstick to overstay its welcome, as Paddington channels comedy legends, Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, to invoke humorous fails – whether it be literally butchering an impatient man’s hair at a barber shop (with the payoff being comedy gold), or cleaning windows four stories high. What brings him to do these odd jobs if he keeps failing? Lucy’s 100th birthday is coming up, and Paddington has found the perfect gift for her in Mr. Gruber’s (Jim Broadbent) antique shop: a pop-up book showing the sights of London (“She has always wanted to go to London”). However, this particular book has caught the attention of Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant) – a washed-up theater actor who has resorted to doing dog food commercials and performing magic shows at the carnival, as he manages to not only steal it, but frame Paddington for theft, eventually getting him arrested and thrown in prison.
On one hand, ‘Paddington 2’ becomes a sort-of escape-from-prison movie in which Paddington adjusts to life in the prison he is sent to, while eventually making friends with the tough-as-nails prison cook known as “Knuckles” (Brendan Gleeson); while on the other hand, it is a comedic caper in which The Browns try to clear the bear’s name and uncover the many identities of Buchanan. Thankfully, King knows how to balance the two subplots; one never manages to shine in the spotlight more than the other, allowing you to care for both Paddington and his family; the result is a delightful present wrapped tightly in a bow.