Director: Paul King

Cast: Ben Whishaw, Brendan Gleeson, Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Hugh Grant, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent

Classification: G (Very Mild Themes and Violence)

Review by Peter Gray

I don’t think I was alone in feeling a sense of dread when it was announced that the beloved creation that is Michael Bond’s Paddington Bear was going to be given the cinematic treatment. The first-released trailer was quite horrid to view with all its unpolished CGI on full display, not to mention the originally cast Colin Firth dropped out of voicing the titular bear during the post-production phase, leading many to suspect Paul King’s planned venture would be a disaster.

How wrong we all were though when ‘Paddington’ was unleashed in the latter months of 2014 and proved to be an immensely charming outing that was both unanimously acclaimed by critics and well received by audiences, earning British Academy Film Awards nominations and over $200 million worldwide by the end of its run. The original film was so joyous and charmingly innocent in a way so very few family films are, and its sequel follows suit, perhaps even more so, and given the climate of 2017, a film that celebrates kindness in all its forms is a picture we so desperately need.

‘Paddington 2’ doesn’t really afford its audience the luxury of a “Previously on ‘Paddington…”, it just assumes you’re already up to speed on the prior accounts of the original film, so when we are re-introduced to the kind but clumsy creature (once again voiced by an effortlessly charming Ben Whishaw) he’s enjoying his quaint life with the loveable Brown family in a sunny London neighbourhood where no one bats an eye at the fact that their newest resident is a talking, marmalade-enthused bear; Sally Hawkins and Hugh Bonneville reprise their roles as the respective heads of the Brown family, both delivering heartfelt turns that feel utterly authentic.

Hoping to source a gift for his dear Aunt Lucy (voiced by Imelda Staunton), Paddington believes he’s found the perfect one within the eclectic walls of Mr Gruber (Jim Broadbent)’s antique shop – a one-of-a-kind pop-up illustration book that intricately details some of London’ most noteworthy landmarks. Unfortunately for our precious Paddington he isn’t the only one with eyes on this particular prize, and when it is stolen from Gruber’s shop the police implicate him in the robbery, sending Paddington off to a jail stacked to the brim with hardened criminals.

Naturally, shenanigans of the most absurd sort follow suit as Paddington tries his best to navigate the politics of prison, whilst the Browns do all they can to prove his innocence. Perhaps the most absurd ingredient contained within ‘Paddington 2’s recipe though is the camp greatness of Hugh Grant as the assuredly demented and highly eccentric thespian Phoenix Buchanan, a once-great actor who loves attention and costume-wearing almost as much as he loves himself.

Beyond the stellar commitment from its cast – I can’t forget to mention the hilarious Brendan Gleeson as an initially menacing inmate who can’t help but give in to Paddington’s charm – ‘Paddington 2’ is a film firing on all cylinders thanks to the visual opulence on display from the team working behind the camera. The set design that was so boldly on display in the original film through the representation of the Brown household as a life-size dollhouse is implemented here once more through an equally inventive sequence regarding the weavings in and out of the pop-up book brought spectacularly to life.

A big bear-hug of a movie that, much like its predecessor, exceeds all expectations, ‘Paddington 2’ is a warm, wonderful cinema experience that caters to all audiences through its suitable sight gags and camp humour that injects the film with an infectious enthusiasm that’s so sorely missed at the theatres these days.

My rating: 4.5/5

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