Against all the odds, 2014’s live action Paddington film was a delightful surprise – a cinematic update of the childhood classic that stayed true to the spirit of creator Michael Bond‘s characters and stories, resulting in a family blockbuster with a strong emphasis on good storytelling and oodles of fun. Paddington 2, the long awaited sequel, is equally delightful, thanks in no small part to the talent of returning helmsman Paul King (The Mighty Boosh).
Paddington 2 picks up where the first film left off – Paddington (voiced by Ben Whishaw), now settled in with the Brown family in Windsor Gardens, passes his days making friends and trying to lend a helping hand throughout the community (often leading to disastrous results thanks to Paddington’s accident-prone antics). But when Paddington is framed for a crime he didn’t commit by the devious thespian Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant) and sent to prison, Paddington must rely on the help of his friends (both outside and inside prison) for help to clear his name.
From the get-go, the film is perfection. King‘s gorgeous visual flourishes are inventive and stylish, employing everything from animation and models to clever editing and camera trickery. Throughout the film time and again, King displays a technical prowess that borders on genius, evoking the works of Wes Anderson in the best way possible, yet always ensuring the work remains very much his own signature style (look out for a subtle nod to the classic Paddington cartoons by Ivor Wood, which remains a definitive highlight).
But beyond the clever visuals lies a story and script that pitches the tone just right – no ironic self-indulgence, cheap toilet humour or awkwardly forced modern references thrown in to keep things hip or edgy (unlike many a lesser cartoon adaptation, all of which shall remain nameless). King and co-writer Simon Farnaby (of Horrible Histories fame) capture the spirit of Bond‘s original stories, combining it with a rollicking good adventure (half treasure hunt, half classic crime caper) and a healthy mix of slapstick, sight gags and hilarious British eccentricity. The result is a tale that is slick, quick-witted and utterly heartwarming (prepare for tears by film’s end)!
Assembling the cream of the crop of British acting talent, the film boasts many a fine performance – Whishaw‘s Paddington is as enchanting and charming as ever, whilst returning cast-members Hugh Bonneville, Julie Walters and Sally Hawkins are each on fine form, with every one of them getting a decent slice of the action (both comedic and dramatic) this time round. The inclusion of the imposing presence that is Brendan Gleeson as Paddington’s fellow prisoner Knuckles lends proceedings plenty of heart and humour too, with Gleeson clearly relishing the opportunity to play against his typical tough-guy persona and have some laughs, whilst there’s all manner of wonderful scene-stealing cameos scattered throughout the film for good measure.
But ultimately it is Hugh Grant as the devilishly campy villain Phoenix Buchanan that steals the show entirely, with the man clearly having an absolute whale of a time as the snobbish, self-loving thespian with a melodramatic streak and a penchant for disguises. Providing the film with some of it’s funniest lines and cringiest moments (as well as imbuing the role with just the right amount of ham it demands), Grant is worth the price of admission alone!
Easily surpassing it’s predecessor in all departments, Paddington 2 is perfectly pure British cinema for all ages. Thanks to the talent of it’s superb director and a cast of Britain’s finest, it remains true to the vision of the original source material, yet remains entertaining and relevant thanks to a smart script, hilarious set pieces, stunning visuals and the kind of classic comedy that British cinema does best!
A perfect family treat on these cold autumn nights, Paddington 2 is as warm as a hot toasted marmalade sandwich and just as deliciously sweet!