Paddington 2 review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
Many storybook characters can lose their way when translated for the big screen, but not Paddington. His gentle and good-natured personality doesn’t become lost in his CGI form; he may have even improved from such a transition. As he proved in his 2014 live-action debut, you can have a film with talking animals and slapstick humor that doesn’t have to sacrifice intelligence or wit. The sequel only proves his charm can last.
Having successfully moved in with the Brown family, Paddington (voiced by Ben Whishaw) has undoubtedly made his mark in the London community. Not only has the neighborhood become accepting of a talking bear on their block, but their lives are all the better. Paddington seems to find the good in everyone and help them better themselves, delivering marmalade sandwiches for the morning bike riders and helping sanitation workers study on their way to work. He still gets into trouble, as seen in a barber shop sequences of Buster Keaton style mishaps, but it’s usually just bad luck and never with malicious intent.
Missing his aunt, Paddington decides to set about acquiring a special present for his auntie’s birthday; “It’s not every day a bear turns 100.” He has set his sights on an antique pop-up book of London that happens to cost a hefty sum of currency. No matter; Paddington takes the honest route by getting a job to raise the money for the present. Unfortunately, a deceptive over-the-hill actor, Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant), has stolen the book and framed Paddington for the crime. While the bear is stuck in prison, the Browns set about trying to prove that Phoenix was the culprit.
As this story goes along, we discover that Paddington not only pushes for the best in people but that the world itself is whimsical enough to accept his sweetness. This is best seen in Paddington’s questioning of the prison food, having a word with the prisoner chef, Knuckles (Brendan Gleeson). Though Knuckles is bitter and easily prone to speak with his fists, he retracts his knuckle sandwich when Paddington fills his mouth with a marmalade sandwich. The two of them start making more marmalade sandwiches for the prison and not only does a relationship form, but a more refined prison life changes the tone of the big house. If it weren’t for the Browns waiting for him on the outside, there would be no reason to leave such a fun enclosure with colorful characters that all seem to have a recipe for some decadent sweet.
For as likable a force as Paddington continues to be, it’s ultimately Hugh Grant that steals the show. His role as a washed-up, egotistical, and maniacal actor is not only the best performance of the film but maybe his best role he’s ever had. Everything from his toothy expression that can make a room shine to his fanciful means of being evil with his acting abilities is a lot of fun to watch. Be sure to stay during the credits for the most elaborate musical number featuring Grant at his most amusing.
But what’s perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of Paddington 2 is that every actor seems to be having a lot of fun and it shows on the screen. Peter Capaldi returns as the grumpy Mr. Curry, eager to prove Paddington as the menace of the neighborhood, going so far as to alert the public in the middle of the night when the bear escapes from prison. Jim Broadbent is still as sweet as ever as the kindly old German antique shop owner. Hugh Bonneville is still in top form as the straight man trying to find reason in this whimsical world, given more to do this time around and able to hold his own without standing next to the CGI bear. Even the smaller roles of Joanna Lumley as a talent agent and Richard Ayoade as a forensics expert manage to be entertaining players for the singular scenes they occupy.
I adored Paddington 2 at the initial screening but was curious to see how more kids would react a more public screening. Not only were kids laughing along with Paddington’s accidental nature and getting involved in the treasure hunting story, but I have never seen a theater of more behaved kids, including my own. For this reason, I can’t recommend this film enough as the perfect family film, expertly conceived to be as hilariously creative as it is thoughtfully sweet.