It feels like barely any time has passed since the horrendously polite, little bear Paddington bounced on to our screens. It’s terrifying to think it was a whole three years ago, nearly as terrifying as those meme’s showing Evil Paddington stood case in hand creepily staring out at us.
The first film won almost universal acclaim. It’s quaint yet fantastical plot with an ultra Richard Curtis aesthetic of London won the bear a whole new generation of fans. Personally I was lukewarm on it. “Yeah it’s pleasant, bit silly and most the characters are kind of annoying, including Paddington” I thought. Think that I still do, so it was with a degree of apathy I went into Paddington 2 – the sequel!
Well I’ll be jiggered cause what I watched was perhaps the best sequel to a major release I’ve seen in quite sometime. Returning director and co-writer has done what so many sequels try and fail to do, he’s amped up everything that was right the first time and toning down the rest.
Paddington for one is much more lovable in this film. All he wants to do is buy a pop up book of London for his Aunt Lucy for her birthday. That’s the basis of the plot. A multitude of ludicrously escalating events happen but that’s the set up. So simple and it could have been the plot of one of the original stories. That word “ludicrous” also sums up the tone of the film in the most brilliant way. There are sequences of the titular bear getting into scrapes as a window cleaner, a hairdresser and in prison. They’re ridiculous and convoluted but all the while the film winks at the audience whilst saying “yeah, we know it’s silly but it’s a film based around a talking bear”. Go in with that mindset and you’re on a path to enjoyment.
The cast both returning and new all look like they are having the best time. Befitting of his character Phoenix Buchanan, Hugh Grant steals the show. An over-the-top stereotype of the theatre luvee he clearly is enjoying himself enormously, so much so that you can’t help but smile when he’s on screen. The supporting cast too all seem to relish they’re quirky turns as the comedic tone has been doubled this time round. Actors like Brendan Gleeson and Noah Taylor no their way around a punchy line but it’s great to see them getting stuck in to good natured family fare.
With the gag rate well and truly turned up King and co-writer Simon Farnaby manage to squeeze more moments of jeopardy and drama. For every smearing of marmalade in the face there are brilliantly executed scenes of emotion. I welled up on three occasions. Damn these eyes.
The film also looks beautiful, the set design is warm and inviting. Even the villain’s lair/home is simple charming. London is a fantasy land of politeness and clean streets, where a person can live on a terraced street in Chelsea on a newspaper stand salary and Ben Miller can play a Colonial era Colonel. It’s all good natured fun.
Even as I sit here typing my warmth towards this film is growing and that’s despite Julie Walters putting in yet another – got a wig, got a silly voice, got a performance – turn. The warmth of a Winnie the Pooh tale and the absurdity of a Wes Anderson drama. Paddington 2 is simply one of the delights of the year.
Dir: Paul King
Scr: Simon Farnaby, Paul King
Starring: Ben Wishaw (voice), Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Hugh Grant, Brendan Gleeson, Julie Walters, Peter Capaldi, Noah Taylor, Jim Broadbent, Tom Conti, Joanna Lumley
Prd: David Heyman
DOP: Erik Wilson
Music: Dario Marianelli
Run time: 95 mins
Paddington 2 is in UK cinemas from 10th Nov 2017