Every so often you get surprised. When Paddington was in the works, no one was looking forward to it. A live-action version of everyone’s favour bear seemed like a bad idea and because there was voice actor changes just a few months before release, we prepared for our childhoods to be crushed once again. But in what was one of the best surprises of the year, Paddington ended up being a joy to watch and one of the best children’s films released in the last few years. But can a sequel have the same amount of charm considering the surprise factor is not a thing anymore? Let’s find out with Paddington 2.
Paddington (Ben Whishaw, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer) continues to live a happy life with the Brown Family. Ahead of his Aunt Lucy’s (Imelda Staunton, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix) birthday, Paddington wants to get her the perfect present. He soon finds it, a pop-up book of London. However when it is stolen, Paddington gets the blame and he is sent to prison.
The concern going into this was that the charm of the original would be missing. There was something magical about the first and it’s hard to find that sort of magic again when you are making a sequel. Luckily, this movie still has all of that charm. Trying to describe why and how a movie has charm is mildly infuriating for a film critic because it is something you struggle to put your finger in. Why is that this movie just makes you feel so comfortable with it so quickly? I think it’s the positivity of the movie which makes you fall in love with it. Paddington may be a little naive, but his major characteristic, and theme of the movie, of seeing the best in people is such a lovely thing to see. Even children’s movies are often quite dark at times and while I have no issue with that, it’s refreshing to have a movie which is just so light in tone and just excels at doing that.
What also helps the movie in being so charming are the simple sensibilities it adopts. It’s not afraid to adopt cartoon physics and ideas at times and because it uses them with such confidence, you just go along with them. Would holding a razor make a tiny bear vibrate across a floor? Probably not but the movie is so confident in saying it is without any actual explanation that you just go along with it. The prison is another factor. Of course they all wear striped jumpsuits like in old cartoons and of course putting one red sock in a washing machine full of these jumpsuits will make them pink. It’s the sort of thing which is a bit silly but you go along with it because you have faith that the movie is going to make it worth your while. And it does with a steady stream of funny jokes and amusing antics.
But while I could go on about the charm of the movie, the reason this movie works is for more scientific reasons. It has a fantastic script where every single line has been crafted with care and skill. This is not a movie which has been thrown together to see if things have worked. It’s a movie where every line has been pored over constantly by the writers to make sure it is absolutely perfect. There are scenes and lines which seem throwaway at the time. Fairly amusing, but just something to cause a few chuckles. But the movie comes back to them and either continues the joke or ends up making it critical to the plot at large. Take that early scene with Paddington as a barber seems like an amusing skit at first. But then it comes back into play at several points which show that scene had to happen or else the movie would not happen. It’s the mark of a great script and great editing which show the audience just what they need to see and no fluff.
Of course this movie would not be as good without a very game cast. For a movie to be able to pull off the silliness needed you need the actors to be incredibly confident with all the silliness. So that’s where Hugh Grant (Love Actually) comes in. With this and Florence Foster Jenkins, Hugh is having a bit of a career renaissance and this is a role I think he will be very fondly remembered for. As the villain Phoenix Buchanan, a famous actor who now has to do dog food commercials due to his hatred of working with anyone else, he is just delightful on screen and is just someone you enjoy watching. And I could go on about the rest of the cast, which is pretty much every well-known Brit you can think of, but they all bring this sort of joy to screen as well. Paddington may be the star, and a lot of that is down to Ben Whishaw’s sweet voice performance as the titular bear, but the large supporting cast makes the movie fantastic.
I don’t really want to criticise this movie much especially as I’ll likely be on the end of a Paddington hard stare if I do. But I’m a critic, so hopefully Paddington will see the good in me and just offer me a marmalade sandwich to make me forget the nasty thoughts. Even though I don’t like marmalade. But the only real issue with the movie is that it is very predictable. You can see most of the story beats coming from a mile off and there’s nothing that original in the plot. The movie does get over that problem, it’s amazing what a film can get away with when it has charmed your socks off, but it’s one I have to mention as a supposed professional. I didn’t enjoy saying it though.
No one expected the original Paddington to be so good and it’s amazing to see that the sequel Paddington 2 is just as good if not a little better. This is a magical movie, the like of which doesn’t get released now that children are obsessed with whatever Marvel is doing. It’s a movie that anyone of any age will fall in love with and make it one of their favourites. For many families the DVD is going to be constantly spinning in whatever they use to watch films as it is something that will stand up to repeat viewings. It may be a bit familiar but sometimes you want that familiarity. A brilliant film.