When Paddington was released in 2014, it became one of the most successful children’s films ever, a hit around the world that inevitably would call for a sequel or perhaps several. Paddington 2 fills the bill and even tops the first one for sheer delight.
In this one from director Paul King, the lovable and very polite marmalade sandwich-eating bear is a full-fledged member of the community after moving in with the Brown family who had rescued him from Paddington Station in London. Voiced immaculately by Ben Whishaw with more than a bit of whimsy and wiseness, the Peruvian bear finds himself searching for odd jobs to pay for the “perfect gift” for his Aunt Lucy’s 100th birthday. As I say in my video review above, those jobs include Chaplinesque slapstick bits like attempting to become a window washer with disastrous results. Nevertheless, he is determined to make enough money to buy a pop-up book of London that he spies in a bookstore window.
Unfortunately, a bearded man on a bicycle steals it away, leaving Paddington to try to track him down. But along the way, he gets framed and thrown into prison himself, where the film follows his adventures trying to fit in with the other inmates, particularly the gruff cook Knuckles (Brendan Gleeson), ingratiating himself with his magic recipe for those marmalade sandwiches that is a lot better than the slop he has been serving up. These sequences are very amusing, and the Brown family — which includes Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins and Julie Waters as Grandma — pay him visits. Soon the bear gets involved in a prison break and flees the joint.
Meanwhile, a new villain is introduced in the form of the Brown’s neighbor, Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant), a narcissistic entertainer and master of disguise who turns out to be the guy who stole the pop-up book. It also is revealed there is a definite financial reason Buchanan wanted to get his hands on this particular book. Eventually, with the help of the Browns, Paddington is back on his tail. Grant is perfectly cast here, playing this preening would-be musical star for all its worth and fitting the villain slot that Nicole Kidman served so deliciously in the first film.
What could be overbearing (sorry) kid stuff instead is wonderfully droll and charming throughout, a children’s film that really does not talk down to its intended audience and should please every member of the family. The script, faithful in tone and style to Michael Bond’s series of books that began in 1958, is from King and Simon Farnaby. David Heyman produced. Originally slated to be released domestically by The Weinstein Company, which handled the first film in the series, it mercifully was rescued by Warner Bros, which opens it Friday. The sequel already has had a successful run in the UK, where it premiered and opened in November.
Do you plan to see Paddington 2? Let us know what you think.