More movies would be better if they made room for bears. But maybe having ursine characters works only if they consume (and even make) marmalade and sport a floppy hat and a duffle coat.
Regardless, Paddington 2 is as bighearted and adorable as its title character (voiced by Ben Whishaw from the James Bond movies). It also doesn't hurt that Harry Potter producer David Heyman has assembled a formidable human cast that doesn't object to sharing the screen with a CGI bear cub.
86 Cast: Ben Whishaw, Sally Hawkins, Hugh Bonneville, Madeleine Harris, Samuel Joslin, Julie Walters, Hugh Grant, Brendan Gleeson, Marie-France Alvarez, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Ben Miller, Jessica Hynes, Peter Capaldi, Tom Davis, Noah Taylor, Aaron Neil, Eileen Atkins
Director: Paul King
Rating: PG, for some action and mild rude humor
Running time: 1 hour, 43 minutes
Co-writer-director Paul King, who helmed the first movie, is back. He and screenwriter Simon Farnaby have managed to come up with delightful new messes for the accident-prone Paddington to make even though he's now at home with the Brown family in London.
Paddington wants to share the joys of the English capital with his aunt in "Darkest Peru" and discovers a beautiful pop-up book that might give her a sense of what the city is like. Sadly, the rare volume isn't cheap, so Paddington has to learn how to clean windows in order to buy it.
After he has saved enough coins to buy it, Paddington makes the mistake of telling his neighbor Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant) about the book. An actor who has been reduced to making dog food commercials, Phoenix has less endearing motives for wanting the tome.
When Phoenix steals the book, Paddington winds up in prison for the crime and soon reforms the penal institution simply with his guileless charm (oh, and maybe a bit of his marmalade).
As he did in the first installment, King delivers a story that's earnest but far from sappy. He senses how much he can pull on an audience's heartstrings without becoming cloying. His stylized visuals probably help. He makes clever use of miniatures and replicas that grow into the "real" world, and it's easier to buy a prison film if the uniforms look like they're from the 19th century. Newspapers are still a thing in King's London, and there's an abundance of phone booths.
The Brown family (Sally Hawkins, Hugh Bonneville, Madeleine Harris, Samuel Joslin, Julie Walters) is still charming and supportive, and Hugh Grant relishes playing a slimy thespian. Spouting purple prose in a series of broad comic accents, Grant is just watchable enough to hold the screen until the persecuted Paddington gets justice. There are lots of other great supporting turns, some of which last only a few minutes. Brendan Gleeson is appropriately grizzled as a prison cook whose gruff manner hides a noble heart, and Joanna Lumley and Oscar-winner Jim Broadbent are delightful in their brief turns.
King and Farnaby (who plays a small role) load Paddington 2 with several parental bonuses, but the in-jokes never detract from the main story or get overly self-referential. The two probably rely too heavily on slapstick, but they're also willing to add just enough pathos to keep the story from becoming monotonous. Marmalade needs more than sugar to be edible, after all.
Paddington's creator, writer Michael Bond, died last June at the age of 91. Thankfully, the people who have adapted his most famous character for the big screen have done a good enough job to make children understand their parents' nostalgia for the bear.
MovieStyle on 01/12/2018
Print Headline: Paddington 2