If you would like to read my review of the original Paddington, click here.
Synopsis: While searching for the perfect present for his beloved Aunt Lucy’s hundredth birthday, Paddington sees 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. (Warner Bros.)
Starring: Ben Whishaw, Hugh Bonneville, and Sally Hawkins
Writers: Paul King and Simon Farnaby
Director: Paul King
Rating: G (Canada)/PG (United States)
Running Time: 103mins
For showtimes and more, check out Paddington 2 on movietimes.com.
What made the first Paddington so successful was its smartly written and charming family, banking on the immensely likable character of Paddington. Now, the writer and director of the original is back for this sequel continues with this idea and improves on it. In this film, Paddington is firmly cemented within his new London community and his kind and caring nature has had a positive effect on their lives just as he had done for the Browns.
With his aunt Lucy’s (Imelda Staunton) 100th birthday approaching, Paddington wanted to get her a gift that showed her his appreciation for everything that she had done for him. He had his eye on a particular popup book of London that would show her the city that she always dreamed of seeing one day. Doing so would mean finding a job so he would earn enough money to pay for it. However, his plan was thwarted when he found himself in prison for stealing the book so it was up to the Brown family including Henry (Bonneville) and Mary Brown (Hawkins) to clear his name.
Paddington and his upbeat personality are never not engaging to watch and this was still the case here. Even in a new environment, his personality and positive outlook still shined through, allowing him to make a few new friends along the way including a curmudgeon chef named Knuckles McGinty (Brendan Gleeson). Things may have appeared grim (but it’s a kids film so it wasn’t really that grim) but Paddington was adamant about his innocence. The production design in both films have been impeccable thanks to its vibrant depiction of London and Peru, however, its great depiction of a Wes Anderson like prison was beautiful to look at although this part of the film could’ve been longer than it was.
The only thing that was standing between Paddington and his freedom was a fading, egotistical actor named Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant) who had much different plans for the book. He was the person responsible for stealing the book but proving it would be easier said than done because of Buchanan’s mastery of disguises. His mastery of disguises went further than just his different costumes as he showed off his impressive acting ability by giving each disguise its own unique identity.
Paddington himself was still the best part of the film and he was even better this time around as the story focused more on him as he and the Browns spent more time apart. It was this distance apart that emphasized how much each needed each other. The journey traveled by each was a lot more emotional as well. There was laughing and there was crying, however, it was never not compelling to watch as each were put through the ringer. This is simply a testament to the excellent script that once again balances strong family drama and comedy with ease. The work to bring Paddington to life continues to be some of the best. Ultimately, it was still Ben Whishaw’s performance that put it all together. The story asked more from him and he definitely delivered. bringing charm, emotion, but most importantly, likability.
The rest of the cast was excellent as well with Bonneville’s more mellowed Henry being incredibly funny and touching. Hawkins’ Mary continued to be compassionate force. Julie Walters stole scenes as Mrs. Bird. Gleeson and Grant played against type in each of their roles with Gleeson’s curmudgeon succumbing to Paddington’s charm and especially Grant’s Buchanan who looks to be having a blast as a likeable villain, using his many talents (including in a post-credits scene). Most importantly, the chemistry between Paddington and all the other actors was terrific.
Overall, this was a great family film sequel that improves on the original by doubling down on charm and emotion with an even more compelling story elevated by the excellent animation, script, and performances, including an even better performance by Ben Whishaw as Paddington.