In 2014, Paddington Bear walked off the pages of his cartoon, on to Paddington station and into our cinemas. It soon became an unlikely family favourite. It showcased some of Britain’s best actors – from Hugh Bonneville’s lovingly exasperated patriarch, to Sally Hawkins’ eccentric yet caring mother, and Julie Waters as the comic relief housekeeper.
At the film’s soft, furry heart is Paddington, cheerfully voiced by Skyfall’s Ben Whishaw as the sensitive and friendly Bear. The role was originally given to Colin Firth before director Paul King decided his deep voice was too mature for the youthful protagonist.
Same Same, But Different
Paddington 2 outshines its predecessor with the addition of new, delightfully endearing characters. The original saw a two-dimensional Nicole Kidman taking herself too serious as a nefarious taxidermist. Here, Hugh Grant is at his best as a washed-up actor with dreams of stardom and delusions of grandeur. He is unashamedly silly, channeling Kenneth Branagh’sProfessor Lockhart in his shameless self-love and delusions of importance.
Another welcome addition is Brendan Gleeson as the Prison Chef, filling the shoes of the character that seems tough as nails, but is actually sweet and lovable. Jim Broadbent also gives a turn as the eccentric Mr Gruber, owner of the local neighbourhood antique store.
Adopted as a cub and raised by his Aunt Lucy (Imelda Staunton), Paddington makes it his mission to find her the perfect gift for her upcoming 100th birthday as a thank you to all she’s done for him. It’s a simple, wholesome premise which sums up the series’ focus on care and kindness.
Paddington, whose Aunt has always dreamed of seeing London, sets his sights on a handmade pop-up book of London. The one-of-a-kind book, however, comes with quite a price tag. Here, the film’s charming comic timing is showcased, as Paddington tries out various jobs, which all end in mess and chaos.
The Great British Bake Off: Prison Edition
When Paddington witnesses the robbery of his favourite Antique Store, he goes to great lengths to apprehend the thief of Auntie Lucy’s present to be. A police mix-up sends Paddington off to jail, where he befriends the cantankerous chef Knuckles McGinty, (Brendan Gleeson, in a delightful combination of gruff but loveable). In the tense first meeting between Knuckles and Paddington, cinematographer Erik Wilson uses extreme high and low angled camera shots to emphasis the contrast between the small, young bear and the intimidating thug. In a charming baking montage, he uses a circular tracking shot, and warm camera angles to show the burgeoning friendship between them.
Dario Marianelli, who is known for the magnificent scores of Atonement and Pride and Predjudice, delivers another winner here. The light-hearted upbeat score offers a wonderful backing track to Paddington’s many adventures – from making marmalade to trying out hairdressing. Production designer Gary Williamson wonderfully uses colour to symbolise how the positive influence Paddington has on those around him. Soon the dreary colourless prison is filled with flowers, decorations, pastries and coloured tablecloths.
King continues the cinematic tradition of having a heroic protagonist befriend his intimidating prisoners before making a memorable escape. Here he pays homage to several iconic prison sequences, from Shawshank Redemption, Muppets Most Wanted and The Grand Budapest Hotel.
Meanwhile, the Brown family employ their best sleuthing skills to catch the real thief. It is revealed that the true criminal is Phoenix Buchanan (Grant) who needs a fortune to re-start his career. We discover that the stolen picture book reveals the location of the treasure through a hidden map. The excitement peaks in a chase sequence which includes several call-backs to earlier in the film. Every family member’s special skills are utilised, from the son’s knowledge of steam trains to the father’s yoga training.
One of the wonderful things about Paddington is his ability to find the good in people. In the background of the central story line, you see small tableaux of how Paddington improves the lives of everyone around him. From making marmalade sandwiches for strangers, to helping the local garbage men study for a test, or reminding a neighbour to pack his keys, he is a thoughtful and friendly presence who everyone adores. The ending is heart-warming, satisfying and not unexpected, as the entire community gather to expresses their gratitude to Paddington.
Conclusion: Paddington 2
Paddington 2 is a rare film, in that the sequel bests the original. Just like the Pixar films, Paddington 2 manages to be a movie that simultaneously makes children squeal with delight, and warms the heart of watching parents. At the heart of the film is an ode to good manners and friendliness that is very needed in today’s cinema. Whenever you’re feeling down, it’s worth re-watching these lovely movies and remembering Paddington’s words of wisdom:
“If you’re kind and polite, the world will be right”
What childhood movie do you still love to revisit?
This article was originally published on Film Inquiry.
Paddington 2 was released in the UK on November 10, 2017 and will be released in the US on January 12, 2018. For all international release dates, see here.