We are only starting the second week in January and it therefore feels a little presumptuous to write about a new film something like “quite possibly the most fun you’ll have at the movies all year,” but “Paddington 2” very much feels like it deserves such a statement.
Directed by Paul King (who wrote the screenplay with Simon Farnaby), who also directed Paddington’s 2014 big screen adventure, “Paddington 2” deserves to be praised with phrases like “a joy,” “an utter delight,” and “good fun for everyone in the family.” Voiced once more by Ben Whishaw, everyone’s favorite marmalade-loving bear is just as funny and heart-warming and inspiring as he ever has been.
Also returning this time are Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Madeleine Harris, and Samuel Joslin as Paddington’s adopted family in London, the Browns, and Julie Walters as Mrs. Bird, the Browns’ housekeeper. Each and every member of the cast, including newcomers Brendan Gleeson and Hugh Grant, is a delight.
There is an earnestness to the proceedings, no matter how outlandish, that makes the entire affair work. Much like humans interacting with the Muppets, everyone here (as they should) acts as though there is nothing strange or different or odd about a bear who loves life as much as he does marmalade, going about and getting into various sorts of trouble. And, boy, does Paddington get into trouble this time out.
The story follows the tale of Paddington wanting to get a birthday gift for his Aunt Lucy (Imelda Staunton), setting his heart on a London pop-up book, and doing odd jobs to make money. As one might suspect, those jobs don’t go particularly well, but eventually Paddington earns enough cash to buy the book… only to have a thief steal it first (it may contain clues leading to a secret fortune) and for Paddington to be accused of the crime and sent to jail.
It is an utterly whacky set of circumstances, just as Paddington’s attempts at giving a haircut and washing windows are whacky, just as his making friends with his fellow inmates is whacky, just as the improbable treasure map is whacky, just as… well, you get the picture. It is here the earnestness of the portrayals that carries it all off. Brendan Gleeson as the hard-nosed, terrifying, prison cook, Knuckles, is hysterical, and it is equally hysterical that Knuckles would discover a love for marmalade and strike-up a friendship with Paddington.
King and production designer Gary Williamson have created an truly perfect world for Paddington here. It is an exceptionally complicated, highly choreographed, completely surreal, wholly faked simplicity. In one sequence, Paddington is imagining himself and his Aunt inside the pop-up book and the melding of the pop-up’s look with the digital bears is outstanding. It is a combination of artistic styles which mesmerizes, and it isn’t the only sequence that does.
In case it is unclear from the above, “Paddington 2” is a wonderful film. The bear may never quite look real, the circumstances in which he finds himself may always be over-the-top, and the reactions of those around him may be equally improbable, but none of that matters. It is simply impossible to watch this movie and not fall in love with this unintentional troublemaker. One very much wants to take him home, no matter how much it’ll raise one’s insurance rates and the cost of keeping him in bread and marmalade.
Whether you’re an adult or a child or something in between, “Paddington 2” has something for you to enjoy. It is a lovely movie filled with humor and humanity and even an action-sequence or two. King and company have created a beautiful, perfect story, one which functions like a jigsaw puzzle, with every piece, every element, fitting together in just the right way so as to create something marvelous.
photo credit: Warner Bros.