MOVIE REVIEW: Paddington 2

(Image: Evening Standard)

(Image: Evening Standard)


This year marks the 60th anniversary of Michael Bond’s kindhearted and anthropomorphic spectacled bear beloved and known around the world as Paddington Bear.  The Peruvian immigrant to jolly old England lives by a rhyming credo of sorts that could not ring truer with honest-to-goodness heart: “If you are kind and polite, the world will be right.”  Equivalent to Margot Kidder’s Lois Lane mildly berating Christopher Reeve’s Clark Kent 40 years ago in Superman: The Movie about his use of the word “swell,” cynics may scoff at Paddington Bear’s whimsical simplicity.  Those folks need a reminder of how to be comfortable with such a natural feeling of politeness because Paddington 2 is better than just swell.

LESSON #1: BE KIND AND POLITE-- Take Paddington’s mantra and make it a life lesson.  It’s that simple.  Kindness opens more doors and opportunities than its antonym.  You get more bees, and more bears for that matter, with honey.  When you do your sunny optimism right, step back and observe the joy politeness brings.  The smiles, hugs, and belonging are all worth it.

Brimming with cinematic and family-themed amusement and timeless with the effectiveness of that lead lesson no matter the audience, Paddington 2 is an genuine delight on multiple levels.  With the origin story out of the way, the sequel expands and improves on the cheeky magic of its 2014 predecessor to dive into greater merriment, adventure, and emotional satisfaction.  Add this on the short list of sequels that are better than their predecessors.  

LESSON #2: THE LOVE WITHIN ADOPTED HOMES--Paddington Bear (voiced by Ben Whishaw) has become more than a mascot to the Brown family of Windsor Gardens.  He’s a member of the family.  Though he is a bear, the love and support the Browns extend Paddington is encouraging and endearing, mirroring the need for more benevolent adoptive homes for children (and bears).

Each Brown family member weathers a new challenge, be it a mid-life career crisis for Henry (Hugh Bonneville), a personal athletic goal for Mary (Sally Hawkins), new social interests for Jonathan and Judy (Samuel Joslin and Madeleine Harris), or the ever-watching snooping of Mrs. Bird (Julie Walters).  Beyond his household, Paddington also is a buoyant and helpful presence connected to the caring residents of his community.  Nevertheless, the marmalade-loving South American caniform still has his fish-out-of-water moments of innocent trouble.

Determined to buy a special antique gift, a one-of-a-kind pop-up book of London sights, from Mr. Gruber (Jim Broadbent) for his Aunt Lucy (Imelda Staunton) back in Peru, Paddington has to find a job to earn the money.  The heirloom formerly belonged to the eccentric artist and steam engine innovator Madame Kozlova and is rumored to hold clues to an old fortune of jewels.  Its rediscovery draws the attention of Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant), a devious and vain has-been actor slumming it by hawking haughty dog food instead of commanding his former stages.  

When the book is stolen, our well-meaning bear is wrongly pinched for the crime, putting Paddington in a paddy wagon bound for “prison sweet prison.”  This pickle adds to a whole jar of them in the slammer when burly inmates like T-Bone (Tom Davis) and Knuckles McGinty (Brendan Gleeson) are not soft enough for Paddington’s kindly nature.  Meanwhile, the Browns investigate the caper hoping to clear Paddington’s name.

LESSON #3: DON’T PISS OFF JUDGES-- Even the most courteous of furry animal gentlemen can mess up with the wrong influential person.  Every apology cannot clear every consequence, even if you’re a sweetheart like Paddington.

From production designer Gary Williamson’s vibrant sets to Wonder Woman designer Lindy Hemming’s dapper costumes, Paddington 2 carries a fanciful sheen.  The impressive shooting blend of visual effects and live-action settings is seamless and dazzling with its textured animation.  Tied together by composer Dario Marinelli’s flighty musical score, every aesthetic nugget of endless charm shines in Paddington 2.  The elite artistry crafts a canvas for the writing to shine even brighter.  Writer-director Paul King and his screenplay partner Simon Farnaby (great extended cameo in the film, by the way) pack this sequel with plenty of pleasant puns and a windfall of accidental humor all the way up to its James Bond Lite finale.  

The ensemble of top-notch performers apply pitch perfect comic timing to make Paddington 2 sing and zing.  Not an actor on the roster misses a beat, especially the priceless Hugh Grant relishing every possible self-deprecating flamboyance as the villain.  In too many highlights to list, everyone on camera is clearly having a ball.  Could these cast members challenge themselves more than a family film?  Sure and many of them do, like Hawkins currently an Academy Award hopeful for The Shape of Water, a film that couldn’t be more opposite to this one.  

This writer says let them and us have a good time.  The laughs are welcome and effortless and capped by a warm and unexpected emotional swoon that as sweet as the marmalade it indulges.  Allow these thespians the opportunity to lovingly toast a beloved national figure like Paddington Bear.  Films like this are the future classics that audiences will be watching them in far longer than some TV show or Oscar contender.

LESSON #4: SEEING THE GOOD IN PEOPLE-- Consider this final life lesson the reciprocation required for Lesson #1 to create the proper peace and happiness.  Flip the old saying of “give as well as receive.”  Notice and acknowledge the virtue, dignity, and authentic efforts of those trying to be kind around you.  Spread the reward you received.