writer/Director: Paul King
Starring: Ben Whishaw, Hugh Grant, Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Imelda Staunton, Michael Gambon, Julie Walters
If you’re looking for a family film to watch at home, watch the first Paddington film now streaming on Netflix. If you’ve already fallen in love with that movie, head out to theaters to check out the sequel. It’s well-worth heading out in the cold for a family outing. Paddington Bear (voiced by Ben Whishaw) has settled down a bit and feeling more and more welcome in his quaint London neighborhood with the Brown family. Everybody in the neighborhood knows and loves him except the cranky Mr. Curry (Doctor Who’s Peter Capaldi). Paddington is in search of the perfect gift for his Aunt Lucy (Staunton) who is celebrating her 100th birthday. She means the world to him, so he must find just the right gift for her. It’s at an antique shop where he spots a pop-up book displaying the magic and wonder of London. It comes with a pretty lofty price tag, but he is determined to buy it for her to show his appreciation for everything she has done for him. He decides to work odd jobs around the neighborhood like washing windows, cleaning gutters, and dog grooming in hopes of saving up the money. One night he is witness to a break in when a mysterious man lurks into the antique shop and steals the very book he wants to buy for Aunt Lucy. His attempt to catch the thief goes horribly awry when he is arrested for the crime instead. Paddington is then sent to jail, while the real culprit is out on the loose. He just happens to be washed up actor Phoenix Buchanan (Grant) donning one of his many disguises. He believes the secrets in the pop-up book could lead to a hidden treasure hopefully putting an end to the dog food commercials he’s been appearing in.
I hate to admit that I was surprised at how good the first film was when I watched it a few years ago. There was a charming and lovable quality to the titular bear that I had forgotten about since my childhood. Based on the books by Michael Bond, he’s become a longtime treasure over in England, which might be why the first film didn’t do as well at the domestic box office. It’s worth noting that the sequel lives up to the first film without feeling like a pure cash cow for the studio. Part of the sequel’s success is how carefully it brings author Michael Brown’s characters to life. No cheap tricks here as the animation for Paddington continues to be impressive at capturing his innocence and the playful mayhem that he gets finds himself in on any given day.
Ben Whishaw may be best known for playing Q in the recent James Bond films. He’s impeccable at voicing Paddington. He brings a great sense of wonder and awe to the bear that is full of genuine love for everyone in his life. It’s great to see Hugh Grant in the villain role. He never takes himself too seriously as he loosens up and makes for a devilishly fun master of disguises. He makes for a better villain than Nicole Kidman did in the first movie. The rest of the cast is filled with familiar faces like Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Julie Walters, and the hysterical Brendan Gleeson as the grumpy jail cook.
Writer/director Paul King is also back, which helps keep that same tone and voice of the first film. Paddington 2 really reminded me of a kid-friendly version of Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel with Paddington’s attempt to break out of jail. There’s a silly quality to see little Paddington go up against a bunch of hardened prisoners, for which chaos naturally ensues. It’s refreshing to see a children’s movie with strong family themes built around a character that just wants to do something special for his loved ones. His positive attitude toward life is contagious and just the thing you may need to put a smile on your face and feel like a kid again.
Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? Wholesome family fun full of humor, charm, and a little adventure along the way.
RATING: 3 out of 5 TICKET STUBS