By Jack Dignan
I think it’s safe to say that Paddington 2 is straight up the most delightful cinema experience I’ve had in quite some time. The first film was a pleasant surprise, to say the least. Expectations weren’t necessarily high going in, but I came out with a smile on my face and a twinkle in my eye, eager to see further live action adventures of the beloved British bear. Now, three years later, it’s here, and not only is it just as charming, kind hearted and loveable as the first, it surpasses it in nearly every way.
We first meet Paddington (Ben Wishaw) eagerly anticipating his Aunt Lucy’s (Imelda Staunton) 100th birthday. Being the loving bear he is, Paddington wants to get her the absolute best gift money can buy, an antique pop up book featuring all of London’s greatest sights, but unfortunately for the poor little bear, he doesn’t quite have enough money. So, he gets a job. Or, more accurately, a number of jobs, but his plans are put on halt when a mysterious thief steals the book, causing Paddington and his beloved Brown family to embark on a daring and dangerous quest to unmask the thief and return the book.
While it may sound like a generic heist comedy, and to a certain degree it is, Paddington 2 is full of surprises. It’s plot leads down a wildly unpredictable path featuring an abundance of eccentric, good spirited chaos spread across the country in what can only be described as one of the best family films of the year. Paddington 2 is the family film to beat these school holidays, with Coco (review coming this weekend) being the only film that looks as though it could provide some competition in terms of quality. Round up everybody you love and return to Paddington’s illustrious British home for a family adventure everybody is going to adore.
The first film’s heavy hitters return for seconds, supported by a plethora of new additions who are all having the absolute time of the life. Sally Hawkins, Hugh Bonneville, Jim Broadbent and Julie Walters are all just as charming as ever, each embarking on their own personal vendetta throughout, all while relating back to the central plot at hand. Their presence aids the emotion. They’re the stems holding this film together, tying it all up and giving it an extra boost towards brilliance (which it so effortlessly achieves).
On top of them, Hugh Grant and Brendan Gleeson stand out amongst the many newcomers (and many new cameos), both of whom are having an absolute blast being in this film, and justifiably so. As an audience member, their joy is infectious, making this a truly enjoyable cinema experience that’s impossible not to fall in love with. Hugh Grant is an absolute standout as the villainous has-been actor Phoenix Buchanan, whose tyranny is ridiculously perfect. Where else do you get to see Grant don an oversized dog costume, eat dog food and then turn to the screen and seductively say ‘woof’ right at the audience? I, for one, certainly don’t remember that scene in Love, Actually.
Other side characters, however, don’t always feel as necessary. Peter Capaldi, for example, returns as Paddington’s grumpy neighbour Mr. Curry, but his screen time feels largely unnecessary. There’s also an attempt at giving the Brown children an arc, but again, it’s mostly inconsequential to anything. But the real saving grace of this movie is Paddington himself. The portrayal of the character has never been better. It’s as if he were ripped straight off of the pages of Michael Bond’s beloved books and let loose on the big screen to endlessly charming results. The CGI on Paddington isn’t always perfect, but the unabridged charm and kindness in his heart overcomes any and all technical flaws, as minor as they may be.
His scenes shared with Brendan Gleeson are to die for, and if you didn’t get at least somewhat watery eyed during the film scene of the film, you’re lying to yourself. It’s an emotional conclusion to one of the best family films of the year, and it’s sure to spark a love affair with the character for those who aren’t already deeply in love.
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