Image Credit: aitoff (CC0)
With the runaway success of the original Paddington, it was always a matter of time before a sequel would hit the screens. And it duly did, taking StudioCanal’s biggest opening weekend box office in the UK. With many successful films, the desire to create a quick cash-in on the original’s popularity is strong, especially with the studios’ accountants. Take Disney, and the many sequels to its most popular and critically acclaimed films. Has anyone actually seen The Lion King 1.5? But I am very glad to report that Paddington 2 is not just the sequel we wanted, but also an antidote to the modern age. With Paddington living in harmony with the Browns and the rest of Windsor Gardens, what could possibly go wrong?
As you may have predicted, the film does not continue in such a blissful state for long. With his Aunt Lucy approaching her 100th Birthday, Paddington sets his sights upon the ideal gift; a pop-up book of London; somewhere she has always wanted to visit but never could. However, after the book is stolen, and Paddington accused of the crime, he and the Browns must find the culprit, save the day, and eat a lot of marmalade sandwiches in the process! From start to finish, the film is an absolute delight. Humour is very much alive in the film, as you may expect from Paul King, director of the Mighty Boosh, with a combination of visual and physical comedy coming together in a seamless blend. But that’s not to say that you won’t find any substance behind it all. The film is very much the oft-mentioned emotional rollercoaster, with humour giving way to tear-jerking moments (believe me, tears were shed) faster than the click of a finger. It also has a message, something you may not expect to find in a film that harks back to an idealised view of London, and the World. While you won’t find much in the way of commentary on the state of global politics, the film does touch upon the divisions in society (embodied by Mr Curry; Peter Capaldi on top form, as ever) and their effects, as the idyll of Windsor Gardens falls into disarray and depression. With Paddington; an immigrant to London, and a symbol of hope, kindness and inclusivity, removed from their lives, the world seems a little less colourful, with a literal grey tinge falling over the cinematography. The cinematography of this film is only a part of the presentation, with portions of the film taking place within other animated worlds, with the most powerful being through the pages of the aforementioned book.
As with the first Paddington film, you will find a significant chunk of the British acting profession appearing at least briefly. It’s common to single out one scene-stealing actor within large ensemble casts, but in this case, with so many scenes being stolen, it’s hard to single out just one. Ben Whishaw brings his unique tones back to the role of the titular bear, while the Brown household return too, with Hugh Bonneville and Sally Hawkins both playing their roles with glee. Mrs Bird (Julie Walters) and the children (Madeline Harris and Samuel Joslin) have perhaps a slightly reduced role relative to the first film, as the story follows Paddington away from the Browns, but still get their own time in the spotlight. Brendan Gleeson, as Nuckles McGinty, is another standout in the cast, while Simon Farnaby, also a co-writer, reprises his role as Barry, the security guard with the easily turned head. Hugh Grant is worth a mention for his role as Phoenix Buchanan; essentially an exaggerated version of himself, mashed together with Robert Downey Jr’s Kirk Lazarus from Tropic Thunder. A further part of the ensemble, including Ben Miller, Sanjeev Bhaskar and Jessica Hynes, play Paddington’s neighbours, giving each of them a distinct character and voice which really enables Windsor Gardens to come alive as a setting.
In all, I can wholeheartedly recommend Paddington 2 to absolutely anyone. While I was slightly concerned at the start that it was looking like a series of Paddington skits interspersed with plot (I was much mistaken), and some minor other grumbles (The GWR does not go over any viaducts like that on the way to Bristol), it is a sweet, warm-hearted joy of a film. Much like Paddington himself!