Directed by Paul King
It's a bleak, unforgiving world out there. It's harsh, it's cold, and, most importantly, it's unkind. But when you watch dear, sweet Paddington, it's almost like the bitterness of the world dissolves into tangy marmalade. The beautiful spirit and inclusivity of this little bear teaches a lesson of kindness and acceptance not just to the children watching, but also to their parents. Paddington 2 is a fun, lively, generous, and inspiring film that sets a precedent for the year to come.
With Aunt Lucy's (Imelda Staunton) 100th birthday just around the corner, Paddington (Ben Whishaw) is desperate to find her the perfect present. While visiting Mr. Gruber's (Jim Broadbent) antique shop, he finds a beautiful pop-up book of London. Paddington attempts to carry out a number of jobs - which, as a clumsy bear, he isn't very good at - to help pay for Aunt Lucy's gift, but as he's walking home one night, he stumbles upon a break-in at Mr. Gruber's shop with the thief stealing his prized book. When the thief magically disappears into a puff of smoke, Paddington is wrongly framed and sent to prison. The Brown's have to help Paddington clear his name and find his book so Aunt Lucy can have the best birthday.
When Paddington was released in 2014, it triumphed in its ability to encapsulate the moralistic tale of the plight of the immigrant into a silly, charming, and adorable bear. The timely release of the sequel succeeds yet again with the brilliance of fanciful storytelling with underlining social commentary. Paul King and Simon Farnaby continue to following Paddington through his immigrant experience of injustice and bigotry in the wake of a post-Brexit Britain, but the young bear, whose only motivation is the happiness of others, preserves over hatred to find his place Windsors Gardens with the community of accepting Londoners to welcome him home.
Regardless of the superbly relevant, and much needed, subtext of the film, Paddington 2 is a fun and exciting adventure story that brings London and its inhabitants to life. King's Wes Anderson styling makes the picture charming and pleasing, which transports the audience into Paddington's wonderfully playful mind. King and Farnaby's comedic villain, an aging and outdated actor (played marvelously by a charming and charismatic Hugh Grant), is the perfect type of wickedness - and flamboyance. And the animation of Paddington, from his expressions to the movement of his fur, makes you forget that dear old Paddington isn't real - although we all wish he was. But the pop-up book sequence is most definitely the defining and most affecting scenes in the film, filled with stunning animation that transports, both physically and emotionally, you into the pages of Michael Bond's original stories.
And to round out the cheeriness of this wonderful film, the cast. Ben Whishaw is once again flawless (when isn't he?) as the softly soothing voice of Paddington. Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, and Julie Walters make up the perfect family for little Paddington - the unrelenting uptightness of Mr. Brown is soften by Mrs. Brown's fanciful imagination, which is all finely looked after by the protective Mrs. Bird. It's a perfect combination. Hugh Grant is charmingly Hugh Grant - Phoenix Buchanan is the perfect role for him. Then there's the whirlwind of cameos from Britain's best performers, and Londoners, that helps to support Paddington on his journeys. If the story isn't enough to make your heart flutter with joy and love, this cast surely will.
King's film is a brilliantly crafted, finely executed, and desperately fully of heart and joy. It's a charming and lovely film that will remind you of the joys of childhood, but also challenge you to be kind and polite so the world will be alright.