“Paddington 2” (2017)

Animated Comedy

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Written by: Paul King & Simon Farnaby

Directed by: Paul King

Featuring: Ben Wishaw, Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Brendan Gleeson, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent, Peter Capaldi and Hugh Grant

Henry Brown: Paddington wouldn’t hesitate if any of us needed help! He looks for the good in all of us.

There is no doubt that the release of “Paddington” in 2016 was not only a huge success but defied odds to become one of the best films of that year. When the original trailer was released with not great animation as well as Colin Firth woefully miscast as the voice of our furry hero there was not much to look forward to. But with some time and the recasting of Ben Wishaw as the almost too perfect voice of Paddington the film became a real success story – with a sequel sure to arrive, and it has with bells on. It not only lives up to the original hit, but surpasses it by moving the story forward, with a goal based plot as well as upping the villain stakes with Hugh Grant, here showing why he can play pretty much anything without any ironic detachment that can haunt some actors in similar kinds of films.

The great news is that writer/director Paul King has retuned to not only bring a new story to life but also reinvigorate the narrative with his unique visual style, which canny viewers will recognize from his stellar work on “The Mighty Boosh” (2005-2012), as well as the cast which is rounded out with many of his cohorts from the same show or similar projects. Of course with the first movie firmly planted in peoples minds there has to be something to not only remind viewers of the greatness, as well as uniqueness, and their introduction to Paddington but there needs to be an addition to keep the story fresh as well as the supporting characters real – this has been and King makes it looks easy.

The story begins with Paddington, having settled with the Brown family in London’s Windsor Gardens, has become popular in his community, offering people emotional support in various ways, apart from Mr. Curry who still distrusts him. The Browns have changed in many ways. Mary Brown is training to swim the English channel; Henry Brown does not get the promotion at work he has hoped for; Judy has broken up with her boyfriend, Tony, and has started a newspaper; Jonathan has dropped his old, independent self and has become a classic teenage boy. To purchase a unique pop-up book of London in Samuel Gruber’s antique shop for Aunt Lucy’s 100th birthday, Paddington performs several odd jobs and saves his wages over time, finding a good niche as a window-cleaner after a failed attempt as a hair dresser.

When he is just a day away from having enough money for the book, he witnesses it being stolen from the shop by a bearded thief, and is accused of the crime when the true culprit flees after a brief chase. Unable to obtain evidence of the thief’s existence, Paddington is wrongfully convicted and detained. The thief soon returns home, removing a disguise to be revealed as Phoenix Buchanan, an egotistical has been actor who lives opposite the Browns and whom Paddington met at a carnival opening ceremony some days prior and had shared the existence of the pop-up book, which Buchanan had thought to have been lost.

When any film relies completely on a CGI created central character as its hero, as well as acting as the point of view of the audience there is a requirement that everything else looks completely real as well as having a supporting cast that can make you believe that a talking bear exists and is able to interact with the world around him. Of course like the first film, in fact like almost all reasonably budgeted UK based movies, “Paddington 2” has an outstanding cast that is peppered with successful actors in their own right. Starting with Paddington’s adopted families led by Hugh Bonneville and Sally Phillips who lend an authenticity as parents, so much so that you feel they are three dimensional characters that are more than paper thin stereotypes. Then there are the two new major character’s that have been added for this new adventure, those being Hugh Grant as actor (and villain) Phoenix Buchanan and Brendan Gleeson as convict (and Paddington ally) Knuckles McGinty. There are far too many actors to specifically identify as well as many marvelous cameos to go into here, so I will make a few comments about Grant and Gleeson.

It has been a real joy to see Hugh Grant making a comeback (but was he ever away?), which in my mind began with the massively underrated “The Pirates! Band of Misfits” (2012) and continued through to his scene stealing performance “Florence Foster Jenkins” (2016), here he plays what must be an original character creation based I am sure on some unkind descriptions of him or an actor like him. Grant here is not only attempting to make a myriad of characterizations, but he is also being very physical as well as funny, when you think of Hugh Grant the words ‘physical comedy’ do not immediately spring to mind, but he is successful in everything he tries here – much like Nicole Kidman in the first film. Then there is the always-terrific Irish actor Brendan Gleeson who here is playing his part for big laughs as a cook in a prison, his friendship of Paddington has some clear messages for children as well as adults, if only people would be as accepting of everyone as Paddington is we would all be better off. Gleeson is a force onscreen, completely in charge of his performance as well as being brave enough to expose himself to some comedy greats.

The MVP of this movie is definitely Paul King who had only directed one other film, the quirky “Bunny and the Bull” (2009) before writing and directing the first Paddington movie. What King has done is to take his knack of being able to take real life situations and skew them so that they turn to fantasy. The director has applied this to a fictional character, taken an existing property, used the current time as well as a real location, that being London and created a world where a talking bear is the norm, as well as being accepted by the general populace. The other aspect of the film is that while this is a children’s film there is more to the narrative than a simple story, everything within the plot can be understood by young and old so that all audiences can be fully engaged with a story about a talking bear.

Much like the first movie Paddington 2 has so much to offer audiences of all ages, while the first movie acted as a kind of origin movie of sorts, we see Paddington and his entire family moving on from their initial adventure into new places where they have all grown individually as well as a family which all people can relate to. This is highly recommended to all audiences, the CGI is top notch, the performance are all excellent and the action as well as thrills are original but at the same time offer fitting homages to other action movies, something the original did brilliantly.

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