I love this bear. Writer/director Paul King has achieved the rare feat of creating a sequel that matches-and in many ways-surpasses its predecessor. In a world where cynicism and hate feel like impossible obstacles to overcome, we are reminded that simple gestures, kind words, and a dash of naivety can positively influence those around us into actions of good.
Unburdened with the need of introducing us to Paddington bear (voiced by Ben Whishaw), this film picks up more or less with Paddington and the Brown family comfy in their day-to-day routine. And besides the Brown family, Paddington has managed to make himself a staple in the Windsor Gardens community. Whether it’s a friendly daily reminder about misplaced keys, or a word of encouragement, Paddington is sure to greet everyone he comes across with a bit of Aunt Lucy’s trademark politeness.
Lucy is never far from Paddington’s mind in this film, and when he finds the perfect gift he wishes to purchase for Lucy’s 100th birthday, he takes it upon himself to find a job to earn some money. Leave it to circumstance and Paddington’s more than unusual bad luck, but before he is able to buy it, the gift is stolen from Mr. Gruber’s shop by a disguised thief looking to find a hidden London treasure (Hugh Grant). As Paddington struggles to track down the thief, he is thrown into his stickiest situation yet, that requires the help of a career criminal, Knuckles McGinty (Brenden Gleason).
There is something endearing about these films and their passion for showing how kindness can help shape the immediate world around you. When Paddington finds himself mistakenly sent to prison for theft , his concern over not being able to get Lucy her gift is soon overshadowed by his new quest to improve life for the inmates. Under his influence, marmalade flows through the prison kitchen, new decorations adorn common areas, and in turn, the inmates support Paddington in his quest for exoneration. There’s a silliness to it all of course (further emphasized by Paddington dyeing all of the inmate uniforms pink in a laundry incident), but the message is one that permeates the course of the film: change is made at the local level, from Windsor Gardens to jailhouse row. Because of Paddington’s unshakable belief in the goodness of those around him, these two communities are inspired to join together to help him give Lucy the birthday she deserves.
Paddington 2 continues to astound me with regards to its quality and handling of adult subject matter in a children’s film. Similar to Paddington‘s dark humor surrounding orphanages, Paddington 2 navigates the troubling nature of prisons rather well. Under all the pink and silliness there is humanity there and a longing to be more than circumstances permit. This film also utilizes Paddington’s clumsiness to greater effect than it’s predecessor. Instead of using his mishaps as comedic relief scenes that breakup the momentum of the film, his blunders here are woven more seamlessly into the fabric of the narrative and further push the plot forward. The slapstick nature of these scenes makes for an even more humorous and endearing film this time around.
The addition of Brenden Gleason in this already jam-packed cast of British greats is also a delight. Think the grumpiness of Mad-Eye Moody with the vulnerability of…well, Mad-Eye Moody. Hugh Bonneville as the exasperated Mr. Brown continues to be a highlight in these films as does Sally Hawkins, who is Paddington’s human counterpart in every sense. Julie Walters (aka Ron Weasley’s mom) as Mrs. Bird is wonderful and good lord can I gush any harder?
The Paddington franchise is one with infinite legs that I continue to look forward to with rapt enthusiasm. My cold heart is melted, and my cynicism tempered, each time Paddington makes his world a better place with a kind word.
Paddington 2 opens today in Philly area theaters.
Author: Jill Malcolm
Jill is happiest attending midnight screenings with other crazy film fans at her local theater. Her other passions include reading, traveling to faraway places, cat videos, pugs, and jalapeño peppers. She is co-founder of the blog Filmhash.