Release: 12th March 2018
Format: BR / DVD / DGTL
The much-anticipated sequel ﬁnds Paddington happily settled with the Brown family in Windsor Gardens. While searching for the perfect present for his beloved Aunt Lucy’s 100th birthday, Paddington spots a unique pop-up book in Mr. Gruber’s antique shop, and embarks upon a series of odd jobs to buy it. But when the book is stolen, it’s up to Paddington and the Browns to unmask the thief.
In 2014 something magical happened. The man behind nutso TV series The Mighty Boosh, came out of nowhere with an utterly lovely little family film about a Peruvian bear with a penchant for marmalade sandwiches. Yes, Paddington Bear is a beloved literary creation, and has been a staple of British identity since his inception in the late 50’s, but the world was hardly crying out for a film adaptation. Yet one came all the same, and director Paul King turned Paddington into a modern symbol of British eccentricity and warmth. It came from nowhere, but 2014 belonged to Paddington and the Browns. Sequels often fair poorly. But not for King, because Paddington 2 might damn well be even better than the first.
There is a clear anti-Brexit theme running through Paddington 2, but this is by no means makes it a preachy smug little bastard of a movie. Instead, King ups the ante with his Mr. Beanesque mix of harmless slapstick and cutesy charm. Opening on the most adorable little face you’ll see this year and ending on the loveliest of cuddles, Paddington 2 is as gentle as the voice of its main character. Here is a film about helping others, being true to yourself and doing right by your fellow man. There is a certified sense of cultural identity about the film that does not rely on bowler hats, East end accents or Churchill quotes. But it is felt throughout; even in the way the ‘bigger and better’ consensus of sequels results here in a preposterous jailbreak and a ‘high speed’ chase aboard a steam train. If the original the Paddington was akin to Peter Seller’s Being There, then Paddington 2 is The Pink Panther.
It’s not a seamless experience, however. Some silliness abounds beyond the pale, and the Brown’s are a little more bumbling this time around. One might even argue that the film’s central conceit; a £500 book that leads to hidden treasure, is a little thin. But it leads to some wonderful supporting performances, and paves the way for a glorious middle act. In fact, ‘Paddington Goes To Prison’ might have been a better plot to stick with, as it is here where the film really sets itself apart as utter fun. From Brendan Gleeson’s ‘bag-wet’ hating Knuckles McGinty to a stunning montage that feels like a deleted scene from The Grand Budapest Hotel, it is a perfect mixture of great acting, wonderful directing and beautiful production design. But, of course, it is Whishaw’s central delivery as the titular bear that makes it all so magnanimous. Its weird to think now that Colin Firth was once weeks away from being the voice of Paddington, because Whishaw’s velvety joie de vivre seems to go hand in hand with his digital counterpart like peas and carrots.
We’d be remised if this review passed without mention of Hugh Grant’s freakish pantomime as the film’s big bad Phoenix Buchanan. To say he is operatic would be a huge undersell. Grant’s Buchanan is positively Kenneth Williams in his flagrant mincing. All big eyes, floral gestures and protracted enunciations; the most understated thing about Phoenix is his bright purple stockings and lime green stripped vest. He is an utter joy to watch. One scene in particular, when Grant voices several characters at once, shows just how manic and committed he is to the role. It is a terrific piece of casting, and an excellent performance from the once bumbling heartthrob. He slots in to Paddington’s world perfectly, and provides some of the film’s biggest laughs. Here is hoping that when the inevitable third installment comes around, King finds a way to bring Phoenix and Paddington together once more. Maybe to team up against an even bigger British icon of clownish villainy; we call her the Prime Minister.
Film Grade: A
A fairly entertaining Q&A, and a dull as dishwater look at the film’s Effects make up the bulk of the features here. The Director’s Commentary is fun and mildly enlightening, but it’s the full screen song and dance number from Phoenix that generates the biggest smile here.
Special Features Grade: C-
A wonderful film is let down by a severe lack of special features. Still, go and buy it right now!