Director: Paul King Starring: Ben Whishaw, Hugh Grant, Sally Hawkins, Hugh Bonneville
The 2014 Paddington film took everyone by surprise. Having had to recast the voice of Paddington himself when Colin Firth stepped away from the project, many already sceptical folk were worried the end product might be a bit of a mess. However it ended up being in many critics top ten lists of the year and Ben Whishaw’s voicing of Paddington left us all convinced he was the only man for the job. It was an absolute delight and has become a staple family favourite.
Given the joy with which the first film was met, this second outing had a lot to live up to. Luckily it more than exceeds expectations, with Paul King and Simon Farnaby’s script being both riotously funny, supremely touching and even politically savvy.
Paddington 2 centres around the titular bear’s wish to find the perfect birthday present for his Aunt Lucy, who is still living out in Peru. He is still living with the Brown family in Windsor Gardens and is a firmly established member of the community. Visiting Mr Gruber’s antique shop he finds a one-of-a-kind pop-up book (or popping book, as Jim Broadbent’s Gruber would have it) featuring London landmarks. However, upon discovering how much it would cost Paddington decides to earn the money by getting a job to buy it for his favourite Aunt. Cue some hilarity involving first electric clippers and then a plastic bucket. Meanwhile a wonderful steamfair is opened nearby by Hugh Grant’s fading star, and neighbour to the Browns, Phoenix Buchanan. Plans for Paddington’s perfect present are then scuppered when the ‘popping book’ is stolen, leading to Paddington and the Browns working to unmask the thief.
Whishaw yet again turns in a wonderful vocal performance as Paddington, the kind-hearted bear who believes that being kind can make the world a better place. You completely fall in love with his vulnerability and optimism, ending up really rooting for the little bear.
The whole Brown family are warm and a little nuts, with more wonderful performances by Hugh Bonneville and Sally Hawkins. Hugh Grant is magnificently unhinged as fading star Buchanan, bringing a little Machiavellian menace to his music hall shenanigans.
The production design is wonderful, from an incredible sequence featuring the ‘popping book’ itself to the Brown’s fabulous house and design of Windsor Gardens, with a less-twee Wes Anderson feel to it all.
The supporting cast are all universally incredible, with some of British comedy’s biggest names appearing in tiny, but brilliant, roles. Paul King’s previous life as director of The Mighty Boosh really shows again, as he has an absolutely brilliant grasp of comedy timing and lends the whole affair a wonderfully off-kilter feel.
Paddington 2 is as whimsical and joyous as the first film, with some genuinely hilarious moments of comedy and beautifully drawn characters. It balances this with some really great action sequences and some moments of real peril for Paddington and the Browns, which will have you both on the edge of your seat and possible shedding a tear.
It’s a film that will delight children and adults alike and will doubtless be a firm festive favourite for many years to come.
9.5 out of 10