|UK Release Date||10th november 2017|
|Starring||A Bear from Peru|
|Reviewed||13th November 2017|
It's getting to the time of year when this sort of movie is an absolute requirement. In fact, judging by the chocolate section in M&S, it's been that time of year since mid-October. And nothing guarantees dialling up the Grinch in me to eleven like the supermarkets ushering in Christmas as soon as the kids are back at school. Grrrrr. Happily for my sanity, some things are way beyond sentimentality.
The first Paddington movie was just that. A joyous celebration of acceptance and a wonderful acknowledgment that just because somebody sees things through innocent eyes, they are not daft. Paul King did a magnificent job and here he is, back for Paddington 2. And in case you hadn't guessed from the tone, I utterly loved it. If you loved the first one, you don't need to read any further, just head out with or without the kids, your shout.
Paddington 2 picks up with the bear (voiced perfectly again by Ben Wishaw) now well and truly part of the family Brown and very definitely part of the London neighbourhood that more than a decade in the capital has taught me very definitely does not exist. The bear is friends with everybody, cheerily feeding marmalade sandwiches to the local folks and helping a bin driver study for his black cab test. His only concern is that Aunt Lucy's birthday is on the horizon and he must get her a present that recognises his appreciation for everything she did for him as a cub. A chance find in the antiques shop belonging to Mr Gruber (Jim Broadbent) might be the perfect answer. A first edition 'popout' book of London so Aunt Lucy can partly fulfil her dream of visiting. The book is expensive though so Paddington embarks on a wide variety of jobs in order to secure the funds. Obviously things don't go to plan and a chance encounter with Hugh Grant's fading movie star and local resident Phoenix Buchanan leads to the poor bear being banged up with hardened criminals on false charges of burglary. Can the Browns rescue the bear from clink? Can he get Aunt Lucy her birthday present? Will Buchanan ever remember Mrs. Bird's name?
Ah, the destination here is never really in doubt but the journey, my the journey is utterly wonderful. It goes without saying that the movie is packed with laughs and plenty of slapstick to keep the young 'uns entertained but it's the grown up touches that make this into the worthy sequel it certainly is. At the outset, we get a flashback to Uncle Pastuzo and Aunt Lucy sat on a bridge over a churning river, happily enjoying their last sunset back in Peru before their planned emigration to London. A cub flies towards them in the torrent, destined for certain doom in the waterfall ahead. And just like that, a family is formed and dreams of escape and adventure are replaced with the joy of bringing up young Paddington. An instant sales pitch to the adults in the audience and they are sold.
It's not just family the grown ups story covers (though with the ever present and Browns it certainly covers that), the bear's immigrant story is completely relevant today and in the sequel King and fellow Boosh alumni co-writer Simon Farnaby take this on to the next logical step. The immigrant, now accepted in his neighbourhood is working hard in the gig economy to send remitences home to a parent he owes his world to. Throw in an entitled establishment figure with a vested interest who rolls over the outsider and ensures he receives a hefty sentence for a crime proved on pretty shoddy evidence and, well, that's some pretty savage satire for a kids film.
And it's this contrast with Paddington's constant good nature and insistence in seeing good in everybody that makes this such a joy. The Brown's do their bit and in any other movie I'd be sneering at just how middle class they are but here, with this bear it all makes perfect sense. The twee neighbourhood, the obviously lovable inmates, Hugh Grant hamming it up like there's no tomorrow, all there to smack my cynical buttons (and there are so many buttons), all failing to because the movie is so completely marvellous.
King is also learning his big screen trade well. He keeps the pace up perfectly and sprinkles in some nicely inventive visual work. We're treated to a great animation which has Paddington and Aunt Lucy wheeling around a popup book of London, a definitely Wes Anderson inspired prison break and a breakneck train chase which would stand up to any Daniel Craig has graced in recent years. Despite the inevitable outcome the peril is well managed and I still found myself tensing up as the train hurtled through the countryside.
A wealth of talent is brought to bear (ho ho), in addition to the Browns all returning, we have Brendan Gleeson loving his time as Knuckles McGinty the prison cook, Grant as already mentioned having the time of his life and Peter Capaldi, Ben Miller, Julie Walters, Meera Syal, Jessica Hynes, Richard Ayoade all popping up to deliver something hilarious or endearing depending on the moment. Oh, and a magnificent turn by Tom Conti as Paddington's one and only customer at the barber's..
Not that any of that would make any difference if the bear wasn't spot on and once again, the visual effects team are note perfect. Paddington remains the perfect combination of realistic fur and cartoon stance, something which I imagine contributed hugely to the production time for the sequel (Paddington was released in 2014) - time hugely well spent. Wishaw's wonderful voice work is perfect, never over sentimental, no matter how hokey the homespun "Aunt Lucy always said..."
Paddington 2 is a sheer joy to behold and more importantly is a wholly fitting tribute to the work of his creator, Michael Bond, who passed away in June this year. His bear is once again brought to life in the most vibrant, funny, touching, exciting and delightful of ways. Director Paul King has utterly nailed the tone and mixes a warm, witty script with a flurry of visual styles, knockabout slapstick and endless verve. I can't wait for part 3.