Rarely does a film come out that can instantly turn a sour mood into a happy one, melting all the bad feelings away for 90 or so minutes. 2014’s Paddington is one of those rare cases where at one glance of the titular anthropomorphic bear cub can cure sadness, spreading happiness and a warm fuzzy feeling to anyone who takes a peek at the adventures the bear partakes in. The follow up aptly titled Paddington 2 does what the first one did while also elevating the source material as created by the late Michael Bond (who this film was dedicated to) into an even better sequel that delivers on the potential of the spectacle adapted for the big screen.
It’s not every day that a sequel surpasses the first film in a franchise. But there are a few.
Life with Paddington Brown (Ben Whishaw) in it is better than without. The sun shines a little bit brighter; the grass is greener, and people are friendlier, putting the best versions of themselves out there for the world to see. It’s impossible to want to see Paddington Brown (the surname coming from his adoptive family) fail at anything or wish any harm – the bear cub is nothing less than a ray of sunshine, dressed in his signature old red hat, carrying around his tattered briefcase and wearing his blue duffel coat – stashing a marmalade sandwich or two away for safe keeping.
The story picks up a bit after the satisfactory conclusion of the first film. First, briefly, returning director Paul King and co-writer Simon Farnaby reintroduce Darkest Peru, a few short bear years ago, where Paddington comes from. Both Aunt Lucy (Imelda Staunton) and Uncle Pastuzo (Michael Gambon) happily enjoy their homemade marmalade when they first encounter their adoptive nephew. And the rest they say was history. After that, Windsor Gardens comes back into focus having its mood significantly lifted from the Brown family adopting the adorable bear cub.
From the opening montage, it’s clear that Paddington Brown has made a significant impact to the people who reside in the quiet town. Colors are more vibrant and pop in their cleanliness, spirits are lifted, trees are trimmed, and people are more optimistic and open to step out of their comfort zones. Offering one woman breakfast everyday so she has better production throughout, reminding another resident to bring his house keys before getting locked out, another gets help studying for a driver’s test and Paddington even has time to care for a stray dog. We could all benefit from the addition of Paddington Brown to our cities.
The Brown family is also a direct beneficiary of Paddington’s assimilation into the family dynamic. Henry Brown (Hugh Bonneville) has hit a midlife crisis after not getting a big promotion – coloring his hair and taking up yoga classes, Mary Brown (Sally Hawkins) still write’s stories but is on her own path of adventure, Judy Brown (Madeleine Harris) has taken up an interest in journalism and even started her own newspaper and Jonathan Brown (Samuel Joslin) aka J-Dawg to his peers at school has found a passion for building steam engine trains. Though no one at school can ever find out about this hobby. It’s crucial to appear cool to others at that age.
But not all in Windsor Gardens appreciates the addition of Paddington. King and Farnaby’s story begins to take shape when Paddington finds the perfect gift for his Aunt Lucy’s birthday in Samuel Gruber’s (Jim Broadbent) antique shop – an old pop-up book that also draws interest from a down on his luck actor Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant). Buchanan, an acclimated actor known for his talent and piercing blue eyes has been reduced to acting in dog food commercials to keep the money coming in, but reality strikes and Buchanan is broke.
Like its predecessor, Paddington 2 connects the past to the present creating threads within the main plot that ties everything together. To afford the book for his aunt, Paddington decides to work – first unsuccessfully as a Barber’s assistant by way of a hilarious slapstick sequence and then finding window cleaning. One laugh-out-loud sequence after the other paired with the piano quartet and Paddington discovers an intruder breaking into Gruber’s antiques, falsely accusing Paddington of the burglary and landing the bear cub in prison with hardened criminals.
Leave it to the sweet-natured, innocent attitude Paddington employs in a prison full of grumpy old men to completely change the atmosphere as soon as he arrives. Only Paddington voiced charmingly by Whishaw can see past the gruff exteriors and find the good in people regardless of their pasts. Specifically the prison chef Knuckles (Brendan Gleeson). Once Knuckles gets a taste of that sweet marmalade, his life was changed and so was the rest of the prisoners outlooks on life. Soon, Paddington wins the hearts of the entire prison, including the guards which transforms the dull muted gloominess to a bright and vibrant one.
Visually, King elevates Paddington 2 to a new height – every frame is pristine as if ripped from the pages of Wes Anderson’s intrinsic symmetrical playbook. Miniatures are full of detail throughout, creating a pleasing on the eye production design. And though King rips a page out of Anderson’s book, Paddington 2 still has its own identity, not just copying and pasting one stylistic design and also a marmalade loving talking bear. When Paddington isn’t around, King juxtaposes the environment that’s devoid of charm and warmth making Paddington a necessity to the quality of life that the joyous bear brings to the screen.
Once again, Paddington 2 is led by an outstanding ensemble cast led by the soft spoken Ben Whishaw. Hugh Grant is delightfully devious as the villain with a pleasant surprise coming from all of the Harry Potter alum – mostly Julie Walters as the tenacious Mrs. Bird. After two films, it’s difficult to imagine anyone wanting to wish harm on Paddington Brown whether physically or verbally and King delivers on another adorably sweet comedic adventure fit for all ages that captures the spirit of the Bond stories. One thing’s for sure, prisoners outfits never looked better than they do with a little pink added. For fans of the series, there’s enough marmalade to go around for all to enjoy, though it will go quick, so you better get in line early.
Screenplay By: Simon Farnaby & Paul King
Directed By: Paul King
Music By: Dario Marianelli
Cinematography: Erik Wilson
Starring: Ben Whishaw, Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent, Peter Capaldi, Hugh Grant, Brendan Gleeson, Madeleine Harris, Samuel Joslin, Imelda Staunton
Edited By: Jonathan Amos & Mark Everson
Release Date: November 10, 2017
Running Time: 1 Hour 44 Minutes
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 99%
Based On: Paddington Bear by Michael Bond