It’s hard to overstate how much of a surprise Paddington was when it was released in 2014. Based on the poor track record of films adapting beloved childhood characters, along with the disappointing trailers, I was all set for Paddington to be a disappointment. Instead, Paddington ended up being one of the best family films in recent years, an incredibly charming film that held true to the spirit of Michael Bond’s stories. With Paddington 2, there is now the expectation that the film will be good, although there was the fear that this would not live up to the first one. Thankfully, Paul King, joined in the writing stage with Simon Farnaby, have made a film that not only continues the charm of the first film, but in many ways surpasses it.The film takes place a few years after the events of the first film, with Paddington now ingrained in Windsor Gardens, forming a bond with most of the residents. Wanting something special for his Aunt Lucy’s 100th birthday, he spots a unique pop-up book of London in Mr Gruber’s antiques store, taking a job as a window cleaner to pay for it. However, before Paddington can buy it, the book is stolen and Paddington framed for the theft, with the theft involving washed up actor Phoenix Buchanan. Whilst the Browns try to get Paddington exonerated, Paddington ends up forming a bond with the prison cook, Knuckles McGinty, with all of them working to help clear Paddington’s name. Now the plot of the film is compelling, but it’s the tone I want to talk more about here. Part of what made the first film so strong was the sheer charm it had. Every single moment of the film was just so warm that it created a strong joyous feeling and I’m pleased to say that this film carries over that tone. This is just a lovely film, incredibly charming and something great to cheer you up. In a year like 2017, Paddington 2 is a film we desperately needed. Speaking of which, this film also carries over the embracing of multiculturalism that the first film espoused. The film makes it clear just how much of a positive effect the Browns taking in Paddington has had on Windsor Gardens, with this later carrying through to the prison, though I won’t spoil how it happens as it’s one of the best laughs in the film, with a pivotal scene involving the attitude of Mr Curry conflicting with that of the Brown’s, which does have an anti-Brexit undercurrent to it now. The comedy of the film is excellent as well, having a great mix of humour for all ages. Whilst most family films now focus more on pop culture jokes (looking at everything made by Sony Animation not involving Aardman, Phil Lord and Chris Miller, seriously what the hel have they done to Peter Rabbit), the style of humour for this film is based on puns, some character names and events being put in for the puns, and classic slapstick comedy, many of the jokes having roots in Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, this is truly a film all members of the family can laugh at.
The performances meanwhile capture the tone of the film brilliantly. Ben Whishaw continues to be the perfect voice for Paddington, there’s a warmth and charm to his voice that helps make Paddington such a charming character, along with a sense of optimism that helps make Paddington endearing to the audience. Hugh Bonneville and Sally Hawkins again are great as Henry and Mary Brown, being game for all of the humour in the film with Hawkins in particular bringing a great deal of warmth to the film. Madeline Harris and Samuel Joslin get some good comedic moments as Judy and Michael, alongside Julie Walters as Mrs Bird, Jim Broadbent is fun as Mr Gruber, his accent being the right kind of cheesy for the film and Peter Capaldi is brilliantly miserly as Mr Curry. The brief bits we get for Imelda Staunton and Michael Gambon as Aunt Lucy and Uncle Pastuzo are charming to watch, those two having this great paternal vibe to them. Of the new cast, there are great charming moments from Ben Miller, Jessica Hynes and Sanjeev Bhaskar and great comedic moments from Tom Conti, Richard Ayoade, Noah Taylor and Joanna Lumley, alongside Simon Farnaby returning from the first film. More substantially, Brendan Gleeson is a lot of fun as Knuckles McGinty, the tough guy vibe he brings to the character fitting the tone, along with allowing for some great comedic moments for him, with the relationship he forms with Paddington being really touching, The scene stealer of the new cast though is easily Hugh Grant as Phoenix Buchanan. He plays Buchanan the right level of over the top hammy, clearly having the time of his life letting loose with the character. Buchanan is a smarmy, egotistical wash up and Grant plays these qualities brilliantly, stealing every scene he’s in.
On a technical level, the film maintains the charm of the first film. Whilst the doll house aesthetic is not as prominent this time around, only being used for one scene, there is more of a steampunk aesthetic this time around, large portions of the film involving steam technology and the final set piece of the film involving two steam trains, and the use of steam technology gives the film a bit of a timeless feel to it. There are also great aesthetic choices made in regards to the pop up book that is the focus of the plot. The actual design of the book is incredibly intricate and the scene showing the book in detail is one of the visual high points of the film. The design of the prison is excellent as well, creating an appropriately oppressive air, whilst what happens to the prison design later in the film is part of the comedic charm of the film. The music meanwhile adds to the charm, with the calypso band returning from the first film, adding to the charm of the film. The CG used for Paddington, whilst having a few points where it does stand out, does fit well with the overall environment of the film, making Paddington feel like a real character despite being a CG model, with the work done to have the CG model interact with the real props being impressive, especially considering that it was done without motion capture.
Overall, Paddington 2 is just an incredible charming film. Everything from the script to the cast to the direction has this warmth to it, perfectly capturing the spirit of the original Paddington stories, creating a film that all members of the family can enjoy. This year has been a really rough year and sometimes you want something warm, gentle and charming to give you a bit of relief and there is no better film to fulfil that need right now than Paddington 2.
My Rating: 5/5