Director: Paul King
Writers: Paul King, Hamish McColl (screen story by)
Stars: Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Julie Walters
Paddington 2 is already out in the UK and getting high praise. The original was released way back in 2014 and I was late to the party with this one. Better late than never though and I’m delighted that I gave this one a watch because it’s a great film and its only aided in getting me excited for its sequel all the more.
Written and directed by Paul King with the welcome help of the late, great Michael Bond. The latter being the man who was of course responsible for the original stop motion tv show and wrote over 200 books about the character. Armed with this knowledge, it’s not really surprising that the writing, script and general dialogue is a real strength of Paddington. The story is so simplistic, but at the same time has a subtle bit of depth and with its creator involved, the essence of the character is captured perfectly.
The plot is extremely straightforward. Paddington (Ben Wishaw) is forced to leave his jungle home early in the film, where he lived with his elderly aunt and uncle after a terrifying brush with human deforestation. An incident which leaves his uncle dead. He heads to London to seek a new home and family via an arduous ship journey from Peru. Why do you ask? Well, his family had an encounter with an inquisitive English explorer from that very city years earlier, who let them know that hospitality would greet them there in a time of need.
After Paddington arrives in the capital and has a heartfelt moment at the train station which inspired his name, left sitting on his lonesome with hungry pigeons as his only companion, it’s not long before he’s soon living in an opulent, multi-storey, London town house with the Brown family. Mary (Sally Hawkins) has her heart strings pulled by the little bear and persuaded her husband Henry (Hugh Bonneville) to help. His stay is supposed to be temporary at first, but of course, they all fall in love with the little chap despite his unhealthy propensity for calamity every few minutes.
Just as he’s settling into his new peaceful life, writing notes to his Aunt back in Peru and all looks up, the villainous Millicent (Nicole Kidman) steps out from the shadows, where she’s been hunting him down and stalking in equal measure, to throw a spanner in the works. Hoping to presumably do him damage, steal Paddington away and add him to her sizeable collection of exotic animals at her museum. I don’t want to spoil it any further, in case you haven’t seen it, but needless to say there’s plenty of action involving the pair.
In regards to performances, Ben Wishaw is wonderful as the titular Paddington. He’s more known for his roles in the recent Daniel Craig, Bond films, Skyfall and Spectre. This is definitely a different direction for him, but he really does imbue the bear with a loveable personality, lots of heart and at times unintentional comedic moments. Nicole Kidman was also fantastic as the villain. It was almost like a Disney villain in terms of aesthetics.
I also thought Hugh Bonneville and Sally Hawkins as the two Brown parents were brilliant, whilst the film of littered with a real litany of smaller roles played by a great selection of British actors and actresses. Such as Jim Broadbent, Michael Gambon, Julie Walters, Imelda Staunton and Peter Capaldi. They were all noteworthy and enjoyable in their own right. The latter in particular was a standout as the eccentric Mr. Curry. It really was a strong ensemble effort by the entirety of the cast. Even the younger duo of Madeleine Harris and Samuel Joslin did well.
I can’t talk about this film without giving a deserved mention to cinematographer Erik Wilson. I’m not familiar with his previous work, I’d be lying if I said otherwise, but Paddington was utterly beautiful to look upon. The sweeping, wide shots of London were particularly breathtaking in their beauty. I also loved the side scrolling nature of the house throughout, with the camera moving up and down floors seamlessly to focus on different rooms. There was even a full on cutaway of every room compartmentalised in a 2D effect at one point. I assume this was a clever nod to the tv show.
I sadly can’t pay tribute individually to all 391 of those involved with the visual effects side of things, but the CG was excellent in this film, so hats off to them.
Nick Urata’s score was brilliant. I know him from his work on I Love You Phillip Morris. This perfectly encapsulated and added to the spirit of the film. If I was to pick a favourite from the OST then it would be This Will Do Nicely with it’s spine tingling strings and choir arrangements striking a chord.
I absolutely loved this film. It did what many animated films that preceded it struggle to do and that’s create genuinely funny moments which work for both adults and kids. The humour was great throughout. It was almost Laurel and Hardy-esque at times. The three that spring to mind are the toilet flooding scene, the food swapping with the Queens Guard soldier and his brief flight whilst pursuing the pickpocket. There was something magical about the setting too. It was current day in many ways and yet felt like it could have also been set 60 or 70 years ago too. It felt like an amalgamation of different time periods and it worked well.
In short, the villain was great, the story was well written, the pacing was perfect and the titular character captured the imagination and heart. I can’t recommend this one enough especially with the sequel either out or soon to be depending on where you may live.