Paddington 2 (2018)
SHOULD I SEE IT?
If you cannot enjoy Paddington or Paddington 2, see a doctor immediately.
Charming and funny, sweet and well-tempered, this is a wonderful January offering for the entire family.
Ben Whishaw sets the tone, the supporting cast are having a ball, and Hugh Grant is flat out awesome as a narcissistic actor. Just go see this already.
You detest anything fun and entertaining.
You abstain from family movies of any kind. Oh also, you're dead inside.
You cannot stand it when a sequel is actually better than the first film. (I am seriously reaching for reasons not to see Paddington 2).
I know it's just the second weekend for new movies in 2018, but my guess is that we may be hard pressed to find a film more charming and endearing this year than Paddington 2. Days after seeing the film, I am still smiling, chuckling a bit even, and hoping the movie makes all the money it can.
The original Paddington grossed nearly $270 million worldwide and earned two BAFTA nominations for Best British Film and Adapted Screenplay and achieved the trifecta of acceptance from critics, audience, and industry. With nearly everyone back for a second installment involving the kind-hearted talking bear, the fear of sequel failure is a fear we can put to rest. Paddington 2 is wonderful and better than its predecessor.
Voiced again by the fantastic Ben Whishaw, the lovable anthropomorphic bear has settled into the Brown house, in the bustling Windsor Gardens neighborhood. Co-writer and director Paul King pivots from a back story on how Paddington came to the Brown family, and shows us a typical morning for the bear. Hitching a ride with a bicycle messenger, Paddington then jumps on the back of a rubbish truck, and we soon see a community embracing the bear as he pays forward their kindness with gratitude and appreciation.
He soon becomes enamored with a curio shop managed by Mr. Gruber (Jim Broadbent) and, in particular, a "popping book" which has intricately detailed pop-up pages of London. For the sweet-tempered ursine, he sees this as a perfect gift for his Aunt Lucy (voiced by Imelda Staunton), as she nears closer to her 100th birthday. There's just one problem: Mr. Gruber shares that it's one-of-a-kind and quite expensive. He will save it for Paddington, but he will need to come up with some money.
This leads our bear to get a job at a barbershop, and later, pick up odd jobs and work as a self-employed window washer for his friends and neighbors. New to Windsor Gardens is once popular actor, Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant), rakish, arrogant, and forever committed to his fame and prior glory. Eventually, on the eve of Paddington's purchase of the book, Mr. Gruber's shop is robbed and the kindly bear finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. Arrested and sentenced for 10 years in prison (huh?), our lovable little bear goes to the clink.
Paddington 2 may illogically raise the stakes along the way, but nearly every moment here is a winning one. Naturally, the hardened prisoners Paddington meets turn out not all that bad and, true to form, the soft-spoken, always optimistic bear wins over the most blackened of hearts. Among them, Nuckles McGinty (Brendan Gleeson), the prison cook, whose booming voice and thunderous rage is sufficiently snuffed out by a taste of Paddington's amazing marmalade.
King has such a command of this material, he makes the movie look effortless. Everyone has a purpose, whether it is Sally Hawkins and Hugh Bonneville fervently attempting to clear their adopted bear's name, or Peter Capaldi's tyrannical self-imposed authority figure, reminding everyone he was right all along about the bear not being trustworthy following his arrest.
Cameos are in abundance, but the movie never relies on anything as a crutch. King trusts his material so much, he pushes on undeterred. Everyone is having a ball on screen and the movie radiates warmth and humor with the comfort of a perfectly-timed embrace.
Stealing the show and earning a BAFTA nomination for Best Supporting Actor (!), it is Grant who is truly exceptional. He relishes the opportunity to not only be the film's contrarian to kindness, he slides in and out of numerous costumes and disguises. He nails an insufferable zeal, stereotypical of out-of-touch, arrogant, primping, prissy actors. Buchanan hopes to create a one-man show to return to A-list prominence, however he struggles to move past his latest performance: A hysterical dog food commercial almost worth the price of a Paddington 2 ticket in an of itself.
Come for the bear. Stay for Hugh Grant.
And while that is not entirely fair, since the movie is truly a joy to sit through, Grant is the best he has been in years. With charisma oozing from his pores, he never overpowers a film full of warmth and affection for its story, its characters, and, perhaps most importantly, its audience.
Paddington 2 is potentially going to be forgotten by a lot of folks by the end of 2018, and it is puzzling that Warner Bros. didn't deliver this to domestic audiences before the end of 2017, like they did in the United Kingdom last November.
Regardless, though it loses focus with a muddled chase sequence that runs a bit too long in the final act, Paddington 2 remains an absolute delight. Funny, engaging, and payloading a wonderful message, the film holds true to the words a wise Aunt Lucy once shared with her beloved nephew...
"If we are kind and polite, the world will be right."
CAST & CREW
Starring: Ben Whishaw (voice), Hugh Grant, Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Brendan Gleeson, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent, Peter Capaldi, Madeleine Harris, Samuel Joslin, Ben Miller, Jessica Hynes, Imelda Staunton (voice); Michael Gambon (voice), Noah Taylor, Joanna Lumley, Tom Conti.
Director: Paul King
Written by: Paul King, Simon Farnaby
Based on the stories of "Paddington Bear" by Michael Bond
Release Date: January 12, 2018