You’d be hard pressed to find someone who at least didn’t know Paddington by name. We all have heard of the marmalade loved bear in the blue coat and red hat. The books have touched many people over a number of generations, with the cartoon being just as charming and successful. Despite this, I was rather surprised when the first live-action Paddington film was released in 2014. But not as surprised as I was when, in a world of cynical cash-grabs that miss the point of their source material entirely – ala Garfield, The Smurfs and that upcoming Peter Rabbit film – we got a film that was charming, visually interesting and almost completely unique while always being respectful. It’s not a film I put on regularly, but I found very little to dislike about it. When I heard a sequel was on the way, I was very interested to see what could be done with it.
Paddington has found the perfect present for his Aunt Lucy – a pop-up book of London. Wanting to please her but unable to afford the gift. He tries to earn it honestly, but when he notices a mysterious figure sealing the book Paddington get framed and arrested for the crime. Paddington aims to get out, while befriending numerous inmates in the process. Meanwhile, the Browns try to prove Paddington’s innocence, and end up finding the real perpetrator in the most amusing of ways.
As you can probably gather, it’s not exactly the deepest story and is very much aimed at families with young children. But, as a film aimed at families, Paddington 2 does a fantastic job. Not only is it fun for children and adults alike, the film still has all the charm, style and respect of the first film. There is an amazing scene where Paddington first sees the book and imagines that being his way of taking Aunt Lucy through the city. In it we see the two of them walking through a paper city with paper people. It’s a great show of visual storytelling, and from it we immediately understand why, to Paddington, this book is so important. It’s moments like this that make the film moving and oddly powerful.
This is of course helped out by the actors. There is no better voice for Paddington than Ben Whishaw. He captures everything about the character, from his innocence, his naiveté and his drive to do good by others. Whether he is acting along big named actors, reacting to the series slapstick or featuring in sweet but hilariously dubbed adverts before the film starts, he is lovable in every sense of the word. Returning as the members of the Brown family are Sally Hawkins, Hugh Bonneville, Julie Walters, Madeleine Harris and Samuel Joslin. All are just as perfectly cast as Whishaw, and deliver their performances with great dedication – made more admirable due to all the silliness they all get involved in.
Besides them are such familiar faces as Peter Capaldi, Jim Broadbent and Ben Miller in numerous minor roles throughout the film. The two new cast members who stood out, by name and performance were Brendon Gleeson as inmate Knuckles and Hugh Grant as our villain. I don’t think either was in a scene that didn’t crack me up, they have both got a grasp on their comedy style, Gleeson as the deadpan straight man and Grant as the absurdist. Casting, and writing wise there are no issues whatsoever.
Even from a directing standpoint, Paul King handles everything near flawlessly. It’s visually nice, sounds great, it’s very funny and sweet. It also has a nice message about how your family will never forget you, and how trivial things like finding ‘the perfect present’ are ultimately not as important as the relationship you share with the person. It’s not really one I see too often, so I appreciated that that was the message King and the crew went for. There is just nothing of fault outside of nit-picking here.
It’s not every day that we can say Paddington 2 has earned a startling 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, but truthfully it has earned it. The only word I can use to describe it is nice. It’s a nice film. And it’s ultimately hard to find fault in such a pleasant and innocent little film. I am glad I saw it. I won’t be rushing to see it again, which I suppose could be seen as a flaw, but the fact that I really liked it in the first place should be praise enough. If you’re struggling to find something to watch as a family this Christmas season, then give this little film a go. I am sure it’ll tide you and your kids over nicely until Star Wars is finally released.
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