I have been desperate to see Paddington 2 for a while now even though, until this week, I hadn’t seen the first film. When it first came out in 2014 I wasn’t sure it was ever going to be able to capture the brilliance that I remembered from childhood. I was a cynical 26 year old who wouldn’t admit to wanting to see a children’s film. So I never did. I guess it begs the question, why, then, was I so desperate to see its sequel? Well, for one thing, my friend doesn’t bloody stop going on about how great it is recently. For another, it’s got a 100% certified fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes and has been nominated for a fair few BAFTAs. Now I realise that it’s never wise to read too much into the ratings on Rotten Tomatoes but there aren’t many films who have ever managed it. So I guess there was more to this than met my sceptical eye. It was time to finally catch-up on what I’d missed so I watched the first film. It wasn’t completely perfect but I absolutely loved it. It was funny, sweet, and wonderfully British. Everything that is so great about the Paddington stories by Michael Bond was brought to life thanks to Paul King’s film. And Benjamin Wishaw? He was clearly born to play a talking bear who loves marmalade and looks great in hats. How could I not, after that, make it my mission to see the second?
There is a section of society who often bemoan the fact that the film industry continually turns to sequels, remakes and reboots because they are out of original ideas. To some extent I would have to agree that there is an over-reliance on returning to much loved classic films but there are, thankfully, a few films that manage to do so whilst also feeling fresh and original. I’m more than happy to report than, unsurprisingly, Paddington 2 manages to prove the naysayers wrong. In a cinematic landscape of gritty superhero franchises and YA dystopians, Paddington 2 is a film that is pure fun and joy from start to finish. Anybody who can walk out of the cinema and say their heart wasn’t even warmed one degree is a damned liar… or possibly a Disney villain. If I’d watched this film when it came out in 2017, I could happily sit here and say it was the best film I’d watched all year. As it’s now January, I’m a bit less comfortable making that bold a claim… although we’ll see in 12 months time.
Paul King has managed to not only match the wonder of the first film but has managed to top it. Everything is much the same as where we left off previously: Paddington is happily living with the Brown family and has become quite a popular figure in his little community. The Brown family are all experiencing their own little problems but their life is, for the most part, a happy one. As his Aunt Lucy is reaching her 100th birthday, our little ursine hero is looking for the perfect present to thank her for everything she’s done for him. He finds it with the help of antique dealer Mr Gruber but the rare pop-up book of London ends up being a little out of his price range. Prompting the young bear to enter the workforce. Unfortunately, his hard work doesn’t pay off as the book is stolen from Mr Gruber’s shop and Paddington, who attempted to apprehend the thief, is sent to prison for the crime.
Paul King’s film is refreshingly simple one as we see Paddington locked up for a crime he didn’t commit and watch his family and friends help to solve it. In the hands of King and his co-writer Simon Farnaby, even this thin premise is turned into an incredibly funny and heart-warming story. There are some fantastic Buston Keaton-style moments of physical comedy as Paddington tries to find a job that will have the entire audience laughing along. The film manages to cater for an audience of children and adults without pandering to either. It is sweet without being too twee; funny without being too silly; and it is funny for all ages without segregating jokes for the little people and the big. It does it’s own thing and it does if without worrying what anybody will think. And it’s perfect.
Paddington 2 takes places in it’s own little reality that comes to resemble something you’d more usual see in a Wes Anderson film. We have the past fusing with the present in a way that doesn’t always make sense but that always works. It is full of colourful and kind characters who all live perfect lives in houses that they could not afford in the real world. It is a world where even the most dangerous and brutish criminals can be tamed thanks to Aunt Lucy’s marmalade. It’s a blissful world that, really, only has one big negative: a washed up actor called Phoenix Buchanan, played by Hugh Grant. I know this film should be all about out wonderful title character but it is Hugh Grant that comes closest to stealing the show. His antagonist is over-the-top and campy but so enjoyable. He flits between so many different personalities throughout the film and each one is absolutely perfect. I’ve never enjoyed Hugh Grant in a film as much I did here: he’s wonderful.
When my friend told me this film was the greatest thing she’d ever seen I wasn’t convinced. I couldn’t imagine a world in which it was true. I’m ready to eat my words though and say Paddington 2 was pretty damned perfect. Paul King and co have found a formula that works and bring together some fantastic actors to create an experience that you’ll want to repeat almost instantly. Whilst the first film was let down thanks to its 101 Dalmatians-style villain, the sequel is the best of British. All I want to do now is watch it again with a huge pot of tea and a plate full of scones… possibly whilst waving a Union Jack.
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