In the time between the release of the sublime first Paddington film in 2014 and the debut of its sequel this year, the UK has become a darker place. Brexit and isolationist xenophobia hang heavy in the air, which is exactly why Paddington 2 is so desperately needed. A wonderful dose of pure joy, coated in thick globs of marmalade, it’s an irresistible adventure.
Taking place in Paul King’s eclectic multi-era version of London, Paddington 2 wastes no time in setting out its understated but powerful political stall. Immigrant bear Paddington Brown (Ben Whishaw) is still working his charming magic around the town, earning the adoration of his diverse neighbours for his honesty, hard work, and kindness as he strives to save up enough money to buy the perfect present for his Aunt Lucy.
Unluckily for him, washed-up thesp Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant) has his eyes on the same prize (an exceedingly valuable pop-up book of London), stealing it and framing the innocent Paddington. Grant is on phenomenal form here, camply menacing and hugely fun, as is Brendan Gleeson as the other new addition to the Paddington universe, the perfectly named prison chef Knuckles McGinty. Returning cast members Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins et al. get great moments too, but the show is stolen by the newcomers.
As with the first, Paddington 2 is visually spectacular, every set-piece packed to bursting with imagination, though it does end up repeating a few too many of the original’s beats to match it in terms of laughs.
But that’s a minor quibble, and you’d have to be made of stone to not be absorbed in this utterly lovely journey. A brilliant all-ages family film, it’ll have you stuck to your seat all the way through, and you simply have to stay through the credits.
CAST: Ben Whishaw, Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Hugh Grant, Brendan Gleeson, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent
DIRECTOR: Paul King
WRITERS: Paul King, Simon Farnaby (written by), Jon Croker (additional material), Michael Bond (Paddington Bear created by)
SYNOPSIS: Paddington, now happily settled with the Brown family and a popular member of the local community, picks up a series of odd jobs to buy the perfect present for his Aunt Lucy’s 100th birthday, only for the gift to be stolen.