“Paddington 2” may just be the perfect family movie sequel.
It expands the world and characters introduced in the original film and introduces new characters while still delivering all the warmth, charm, and laughter audiences enjoyed the first time around.
It’s all thanks to pitch perfect casting and a clear affection for the Paddington character, which shines through every aspect of the production.
What’s it about?
“Paddington 2” picks up not long after the original 2014 film. Paddington Bear (voiced by Ben Whishaw) has happily settled into life at 32 Windsor Gardens with the Brown family. Everyone in the neighborhood has come to love him, except of course for nosy busybody Mr. Curry (Peter Capaldi).
With his beloved Aunt Lucy’s 100th birthday coming up, Paddington hopes to find her “the perfect gift,” and just happens to find it at Mr. Gruber’s antique shop. To purchase it, however, will take more than marmalade sandwiches and spare change, so the intrepid bear sets about finding work to raise the money.
His quest goes awry thanks in part to one of his neighbors, eccentric stage actor Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant), who also has his sights set on the very same antique for his own nefarious purposes. Soon, the young bear has a lot more to worry about than just holding a job and raising money, and it will take every member of his new family plus some best mates met in prison (yes, prison) to help him set things right.
A celebration of kindness
What made the original “Paddington” film such a hit with audiences both in the UK and abroad was just how well writer/director Paul King (“The Mighty Boosh”) captured the spirit of creator Michael Bond’s beloved children’s books.
King returns to helm and co-write “Paddington 2,” and thus there’s continuity and consistency in the creation of Paddington’s idealistic voice, politeness, kindness and sense of decency, which carries over and inspires just everyone around him.
Seeing just about the entire cast of the original film returning also serves the new film very well. It all contributes to a comfortable familiarity, but if you missed the first film, not to worry. This new chapter has enough in its opening minutes to get new viewers caught up and acquainted with the Brown’s and Paddington’s charming world.
Naturally, no review of “Paddington 2” would be complete without some discussion of the film’s visuals and just how it brings to life its title character.
The visual effects and CGI utilized to create Paddington this time out are even more impressive this time out. Audiences who treat themselves to seeing the film in theaters will benefit the most from the improvements, as the level of detail incorporated into Paddington, his signature duffel coat, hat and suitcase, as well as his costume changes throughout, all are a wonder to behold.
In addition, fans of the 1970’s “Paddington Bear” TV show get an extra treat in a number of sequences animated in a style reminiscent of the series, with Paddington rendered in 3D surrounded by 2D paper cutouts. It’s just a few minutes out of the film, but it’s loving and memorable tribute that’s arguably one of the film’s most endearing moments.
It must be said that for all its charm, “Paddington 2” is still a sequel, and does fall into a few sequel traps. Not all of the supporting characters from the first film get as much to do this time out, and the effort to somewhat up the ante from the first time around does lead to some contrivance that falls flat.
However, its faults as a sophomore effort are largely outweighed by its positives. Younger audiences will love the humor and adventure, while parents and longtime fans of the character should appreciate the loving effort to maintain Paddington’s gentle spirit and strength of character.
Be prepared though, parents. If your child doesn’t know what orange marmalade is before seeing the movie, they’re quite likely to want to know once the movie’s over.
Starring Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Brenden Gleeson, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent, Peter Capaldi, with Hugh Grant, Ben Whishaw, Madeleine Harris, Samuel Joslin and Imelda Staunton. Directed by Paul King.
Running time: 104 minutes
Rated PG for some action and mild rude humor.