Bob Foster

Paddington 2 is a more than bearable sequel.

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Two years ago, released among the grizzly studio dumps of January was a tiny cub of a great family film.  Effortlessly charming, with a huge heart, and continually clever and never panda-ering to kids, Paddington surprised me over and over again. I koalan’t believe it, and it held as one of best films of 2015.  After two years of hibernation, Paddington returns, and has a lot of live up to.  While it’s not as strong as the first feature, it is quite the solid , eagerly entertaining, family film.

Paddington 2 finds the marmalade-loving bear, based upon the book series by the recently passed Michael Bond, in trouble with the law when he’s framed for the theft a rare pop-up book. The true thief is washed-up actor Phoenix Buchanan.  Hugh Grant gives his all, going full Goldblum, and relishing in Buchanan’s over-the-top theatrics and multitude of costumes.  Everyone, not just Grant, are all-in in  their roles. The cast is veritable who’s who of UK character actors such as Hugh Bonneville, Jim Broadbent, Joanna Lumley, Sally Hawkins (insert fish sex joke here, btw go see The Shape of Water right now), Peter Capaldi, Noah Taylor, and, most enjoyable of all, Brendan Gleeson.  There is no slumming here, adding to the all-around greatness of the film. That cast is brought together by the titular character voiced by Ben Whishaw.

Whishaw is pitch perfect in his voicing of Paddington. He gets the bear’s joyous glee over the world around him just right; never sounding too naive, or dumbed down for the audience.  The computer generation for the cub is astounding as well, blending in to his environments seamlessly; never standing out as “what an effect” or “that shot wasn’t done.” He feels real.  But, the only real misstep in the film is in Paddington’s part. A good chunk of the story dumps him into prison. While the sequences within are well-done, there is little progression both in character and plot from that side.  The family bears the motion of the story.  Additionally, the Rube-Goldberg-like set-ups the accident prone Paddington gets himself into are both less and number and toned down.

Even with a lesser show, Paddington 2 is still incredibly funny, clever, and just whole hearted fun. It’s no wonder it nails the same great tone and pacing of the first film; both films were written and directed by Paul King. It’s eager to please it’s audience, no matter the age, with solid, earned humor. Wholesome is a word that can easily be scoffed at, but for this film it fits perfectly and unironically.

 

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