Director: Paul King
Writers: Paul King, Simon Farnaby
Stars: Ben Whishaw, Hugh Grant, Hugh Bonneville
I mentioned being late to the party back when I reviewed the first Paddington film around a month or so ago and it’s been much the same thing with Paddington 2. It took me three years to watch the first and I finally popped along to watch this great little film nine weeks into its theatrical release. Paul King has actually managed to do the near impossible here by bettering its brilliant predecessor.
There was two things that I absolutely loved about the first film. The quick pacing and simplicity of the plot. This is a concept they’ve stuck with going into the sequel. By all accounts, the Paddington books and original series were aimed predominantly at children, but they also contained overarching themes that were interesting enough to attract adults. That and the charismatic protagonist. This has been a tried and tested concept which has served many a film well over the years.
The story is so straightforward that even my Labrador could watch it and pick it up without any difficulty. Paddington has settled in nicely with the Brown family and with his cherished aunties birthday on the horizon, he’s looking to buy a gift to mark the special occasion. An interesting, pop up book in Mr. Gruber’s (Jim Broadbent) shop catches his eye and he decides this will be the gift. There’s only one problem. He has no money and must find a way to fund the purchase, so he tries his damnedest to find and hold a job down.
Now as somebody who’s too young to have seen the original tv series, I’m not sure if the Laurel and Hardy-esque propensity for calamity is a new character trait in the recent films. But it’s back with a vengeance, and most of the time, utterly hilarious in its execution. From swinging off the ceiling and shaving a huge chunk out of a drowsy customers hair in his short stint at a barbers; to having a slightly troublesome time balancing off a rope three storeys up with a water pale in his new job as a window cleaner. Poor Paddington can’t go longer than a few minutes without encountering trouble.
And it’s trouble he encounters at the end of his ultimately successful first day as a window cleaner. Walking past Mr. Gruber’s, he discovers a thief inside and decides to confront him in typical innocent fashion. The intruder is Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant), a down on his luck stage actor that has his eyes on the same pop up book. Alerted to its location during a brush with Paddington on a carnival stage, he decides to steal it for himself. What follows is a customarily hilarious, thrilling chase across a river, through bushes, on the back of a dog and at one point a goose.
Mr. Buchanan is something of an illusionist however and manages to evade the capture of his determined hairy pursuer by disappearing in a puff of smoke. This leaves Paddington to face the music. He’s arrested, much to the glee of the embittered Mr. Curry (Peter Capaldi), stitched up in court and wrongfully imprisoned. If that seems a little harsh for a first time burgling incident then fear not. He’s soon transforming the prison canteen into a gentrified, hipster cafe and manages to earn the respect and appreciation of the bear like Knuckles (Brendan Gleeson), the fearsome prison cook, after he tries his marmalade.
Paddington bear is a well loved figure in the UK and the cast have been heavily quoted as saying they were inspired to work harder and make this film a real success following the sudden, sad passing of creater Michael Bond during its production. And this is really apparent from the first minute to the last. The entire cast are genuinely great and even the periphery characters pop up from time to time and feel like they belong there and have a role to play.
One performance stood out more than than the rest for me however and that’s Hugh Grant’s. I’ve called him a bumbling dweeb in the past and out-with About A Boy I’m struggling to think of any other performances of his that I enjoyed. I thought he was stunning as Phoenix Buchanan. It was almost like a cartoon antagonist with the dastardly way he scurried around (at one point on a roof in full knights costume). The moments with him talking to his mannequin alter egos were funny (Macbeth) and odd in equal measures. He managed to surpass Nicole Kidman’s great villainous showing from the first film.
Ben Whishaw was great again in his return to the role of Paddington. His voice is a perfect fit for the role and man he really does add so much personality, innocence and soul into the little bear. I loved Jim Broadbent as Mr. Gruber. In actual fact this was like a Harry Potter reunion. Imelda Staunton, Julie Walters, Michael Gambon and Brendan Gleeson too, who was great as the big softie of a man (inside anyway). You could do much worse than gathering those fine actors together especially in a film of this setting.
Back at Windsor Gardens meanwhile, Henry (Hugh Bonneville) and Mary Brown (Sally Hawkins) are trying everything in their power to find the real culprit and free their beloved adoptive bear child. A fortune teller gives them a hint at the identity and it really doesn’t take them too long to lock onto the eccentric Buchanan. Henry is adamant it’s not him initially, but Mary is utterly convinced. As the film enters its thrilling finale, there’s a daring prison escape launched and a mental pursuit on two trains with both the Browns and Paddington hot on the dastardly actors trail.
I loved the final twenty odd minutes of this film, it almost transformed into a full on action flick temporarily and there was a real tear jerking, moment of tenderness underwater between Mary and Paddington that harkened back to the near death, incinerator scene from Toy Story 3. There was a tiny little bubble of air left his mouth in that moment and I actually anxiously gasped such is the connection the film creates between the audience and the characters.
The visuals in this this are just incredibly well crafted, the cinematography is excellent and Paddington is so realistic looking, you just want to grab the little git and take him home with you. I loved the score too. It’s a punchier and more uplifting score than the first film and it just adds so much to the feel of everything happening on the screen. Which I obviously realise it should do, but any road.
In the end, I absolutely loved this film from start to finish. Every facet of its production is fabulously crafted. It’s got loads of great acting performances, stunning visuals, nice action and comedy with a beautiful score to boot. The story is simplicity personified and yet the key themes explored transcend what is essentially a film about buying a thoughtful gift. For me, it’s about being genuine, kind and polite, and how that can really impact on others in a day in age were all those things are sadly lacking in wider society.
This can only be a great thing to be teaching the younger generation that otherwise might be watching a tactless Logan Paul video.
I absolutely implore people of all ages to go out and watch this film because unless you’re dead inside then it’ll connect with you on some level.