Paddington, now happily settled with the Brown family and a popular member of the local community picks up a series of odd jobs to buy the perfect present for his Aunt Lucy’s 100th birthday, only for the gift to be stolen.
All sequels should be as enchanting and endearing as “Paddington 2,” which was more fun than the original, a rare treat. Director and writer Paul King created magic for children and adults well suited to the first charming “Paddington” movie. Even if you have not seen the first film, or read the books, this sequel offers a bit of magic for everyone. The cast brings their roles to life with a fun new addition: Hugh Grant as Phoenix Buchanan. I have watched many of his films but never have I found him as charming or entertaining than as a narcissistic villain out to ruin the life of a couple of bears.
Paddington’s (Ben Whishaw) next adventure in London begins with a gift for his dear, elderly Aunt Lucy (Imelda Staunton). Just in time, a carnival comes to town along with treasures from a deceased carnival owner. Among the vintage baubles from around the globe is a pop-up book of London, handmade by the owner. As Aunt Lucy has always hoped to see the great British city before settling into bear retirement, this gift is just the thing to show her all the sights of London. The cost is greater than a tiny unemployed bear can afford. With the help of neighbors he has endeared himself to, and his adoptive human family, the cub saves every penny until he can buy the book. Alas, a thief hoping for a treasure steals the book and frames the docile bear.
Garbed in black and white stripes, Paddington spends several weeks in prison while his adoptive family searches for clues leading to the real scoundrel. The cub does not waste a moment in prison. The lovable child has the entire prison, baking and clothed in pink uniforms before a week behind bars. With no evidence to prove Paddington’s innocence, the Brown’s have to resort to unique snooping tactics to release their favorite family member. In the flower-speckled jail, Paddington, along with his surly friend Knuckles (Brendan Gleeson), and a few other inmates, break out to help search for proof to exonerate the bear. Then the real adventure is underway, as everyone searches for the book while Phoenix Buchanan searches for the treasure of legends. The beloved family, neighbors, and friends team up to save their marmalade-loving bear.
I cannot say enough good about the movie. Paddington’s days start with enhancing the lives of others. The Brown family are the same, except for the improvements from Paddington from the first installment; they are eager to embrace life with a cub and find their niche of happiness together. Down the thin streets, Paddington washes windows, helps a neighbor to remember his keys, another to study, and yet another to find love and happiness. It’s no wonder the whole town wants to share in the magic that follows Paddington around like a rainbow. Hugh Grant is spectacular as a bad boy who only desires the finer things in life and an audience. His deep-seated narcissism perfectly counters Paddington’s desire to give. Hugh is not alone in stealing the screen or the audience’s hearts. Knuckles is the gruff prison cook in charge of serving mystery mush until Paddington teaches him to make marmalade, of course. He is the perfect sidekick to prove the young bear can win over anyone, just as he won over Mr. Brown.
Besides everyone showing personal growth due to the delightful critter, the film sets apart from so many new children’s films because of the ingrained message that manners and love make the world a better place. Full of whimsy and magic, the live-action film does more than toe the line of reality, but all in an artful and goofy way respectful to the intended tone and audience while remaining just realistic enough to not float away with the audience’s attention span. All the touches of enchantment from the first movie pushed into the second; the buildings opening up like dollhouses, wallpapers changing to match the mood, vintage, and nostalgic decor, and, of course, the overall sense of love from our favorite bear. “Paddington 2” is proper British whimsy and wonder sure to enthrall ages one to one hundred. Make sure you watch the credits for a hilarious surprise.
In theaters Friday, January 12th