The original PADDINGTON movie (2014) told the story of a bear from darkest Peru who travels to London and is adopted by a very nice family called the Browns. Paddington was named after Paddington Station where the Browns found him. The adventure of that film involved a villainous taxidermist played by Nicole Kidman and Paddington’s discovery of how to live with his adoptive family in his new home country.
The sequel, PADDINGTON 2, shows how well the young bear has settled into post-Brexit England. Kidding. The world of both films is resolutely non-political and aimed at family audiences. Paddington is accepted by almost all of his neighbours and has become an integral part of life in this part of the city.
The baddie this time is a new neighbour, Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant), a formerly great actor who has fallen so far from his former heights that he can only book dog food commercials. Buchannan discovers Paddington is saving for a present for his Aunt Lucy; an intricate Victorian-era pop-up book which is rumoured to contain secret information on finding a hidden treasure. Buchannan is determined to get the book by any means. Through his machinations he gets Paddington in trouble with the law. Can the innocent bear clear his name?
The original Paddington film was a solid adaptation of author Michael Bond’s material. His first book, A Bear Called Paddington, was published in 1958 and his polite, anthropomorphic bear character became famous with successive generations of children. The sweetness and cosiness of that world has again been smartly and sympathetically modernised by writer and director Paul King. (Sidebar: King directed all three seasons of The Mighty Boosh.)
The handling of all elements is assured and above the standard we expect of a family movie. An animated sequence involving the pop-up book is a tribute to the well-known Film Fair stop-motion Paddington series of the 1970s. Peggy Fortnum was the first illustrator of the duffel-coated, behatted Paddington and those pictures seem to have influenced the current conception of our hero. This modern computer-generated take on the story avoids the pitfalls of being too contemporary, but isn’t too reverential with its source material. It falls into a similar category as the Stuart Little films in that it is well-made, has talking animals, good slapstick, comedic dialogue and both children and adults will be entertained.
The adult actors certainly seem to have had a good time judging by these performances. The casting has the air of a Harry Potter film; established Brit talent everywhere, even in the smaller roles. Sally Hawkins and Hugh Bonneville return as the Brown parents and Julie Walters as Mrs Bird; Sanjeev Bhaskar, Ben Miller, Jessica Hynes, Meera Syal, Peter Capaldi, Simon Farnaby, Joanna Lumley, Maggie Steed, Tom Conti and Brendan Gleeson also appear, usually fleetingly in cameos, but always to good effect. Grant’s turn as the egotistical washed-up Buchannan is particularly good. His energetic, purposely hammy actor is very funny and a real gear change from his usual output. Ben Whishaw does sterling work again as the voice of Paddington.
PADDINGTON 2 is an entertaining, funny and heartfelt family film which delivers in all departments. 103 minutes. (8/10)