Grant is the perfect foil for a fictitious bear.
Based on the Michael Bond books, Paddington was a surprisingly charming and funny movie that audiences embraced upon release in late 2014. That level of success dictated a sequel be made, and director Paul King obliged with the release of Paddington 2 earlier this year. Now that it’s making its way to Blu-ray and DVD it’s time to see if the sequel can live up to its predecessor.
Now a full-fledged member of the Brown family, Paddington (voiced by Ben Whishaw; Q from the recent 007 films) is trying to find the perfect 100th birthday gift for his Aunt Lucy. He locates it in the form of an old pop-up book of London at the local antique shop. Unable to afford it, Paddington begins working as a window cleaner to earn the money necessary to purchase it.
Just as he saves enough to buy the book he stumbles across someone breaking into the store and stealing it. Paddington gives chase, but the thief escapes, and when the police arrive the only evidence they can find points the blame at the bear. He’s arrested, and his trial is presided over by a judge he mistakenly shaved during his time at a barber shop. In the end, Paddington is found guilty and sent to jail.
On the inside, Paddington’s kindness soon turns the prison into something much gentler, and he makes friends with many of the inmates, including Knuckles McGinty (Brendan Gleeson). Meanwhile, on the outside, Henry (Hugh Bonneville) and Mary Brown (Sally Hawkins) work to prove Paddington’s innocence with the help of their kids. And their suspicions centre on washed-up actor Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant).
There’s a lot to like about Paddington 2, which took everything good about the original, polished it up and created a superior film. Probably its most endearing quality is its tone, which stays refreshingly lighthearted from start to finish. Paddington’s unwavering kindness in the face of any and all circumstances somehow never feels forced or hokey. It’s just who he is, who he always is, and even among modern “family fare” that’s pretty different.
Although no one will be brushing up any Academy speeches for their work, every character of note is given something important to do in the film where their interests or hobbies are needed to solve a problem. Grant is the human star, playing the self-important Phoenix to the hilt with a performance that just exudes fun. Yeah, he’s the villain, but at the end of the day he’s not really that bad of a guy.
For a film with basically no edge to it, Paddington 2 made us laugh repeatedly through its mix of slapstick comedy, deadpanning ridiculous situations and the endearing quality of Paddington — the transformation of the prison spawns plenty of funny moments, such as when he accidentally dyes their clothes pink. While you wouldn’t consider the CGI exceptional, the filmmakers did a tremendous job in humanizing Paddington so that it never distracts.
For what it is and the audience it’s targeting Paddington 2 doesn’t have any notable shortcomings.
THE BONUS FEATURES
Several brief videos make up Paddington 2‘s bonus materials, some of which focus on individual characters (Knuckles, Phoenix) and others about the production. None of it is required viewing, but the featurette on the pop-up book being brought to life is likely the best of the lot. Phoenix’s short musical performance that shows during the credits is also among the extras.
Although we enjoyed the original, Paddington 2 is significantly better, proving even in our current jaded world that a wholesome, family-friendly movie can excel.