In 2014, the first film about Michael Bond’s lovable, jam-obsessed bear managed to impress both audiences and critics alike with its sincere charm and heartwarming themes. As everyone knows, a sequel rarely lives up to the original, and it was therefore understandable that many would have low expectations when settling into their seats for the bear’s second set of adventures in London. However, for those who have already had the opportunity to see Paddington 2, the general consensus is thankfully that the sequel not only lives up to its predecessor, it does, in fact, also surpass it.
From the beginning of the film, director Paul King continues in the same playful, slapstick vein of the first film. Ben Whishaw also continues to prove that he is the perfect choice to voice the eponymous bear, and all the recurring characters are as welcome a sight as they should be. However, once we have been reminded of the things that made the first film so enjoyable, the main storyline comes into full effect, and it is at this point that Paddington 2 truly reveals itself as something very special.
Much like the first film succeeded due to the sincerity of its charming narrative – which prevented it from falling victim to relying on the kind of schmaltz so often overused in family films to provoke a response – the greatest strength of Paddington 2 is that very same sincerity of the original. Without relying on emotional manipulation, the sequel is brimming with warmth thanks to the combined efforts of the talent both behind and in front of the camera being committed to competently bringing the essence of the endearing source material to life.
As previously mentioned, one is once again thankful that Colin Firth volunteered to step down to allow Ben Whishaw portray the Peruvian furball, however, another standout is Hugh Grant in the role of a self-obsessed, has-been actor. Stating that Grant is superb at portraying a failed actor may sound like a snarky dig, but the enthusiasm with which he portrays this character only attests to his talent and wit. Brendan Gleeson also has great fun portraying the initially intimidating Knuckles McGinty, however, the entire ensemble of prisoners during the films lengthy time spent in jail make this portion of the film so engaging that it is rather unsurprising that it has earned Paddington 2 the nickname The Pawshank Redemption.
Aside from its unadultered Paddington-esque qualities causing equally amusing and charming set pieces and character arcs, the moment our furry protagonist lands himself in jail is also where the technical aspects of the film truly shine. While the film as a whole is brightly colored comfort food for the eyes, the prison sequences are on another level; with visuals reminiscent of Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel, the craftsmanship applied showcases the kind of stunningly beautiful work that elevates a film when set decoration, cinematography and color grading all come together perfectly.
The family film has always been an incredibly tricky genre to master, as achieving a balance that ensures a film can engage and entertain across all ages for the duration of its runtime is an ungrateful task. With more misses than hits in this genre not only in general but also in recent memory, Paddington 2 is therefore a remarkable feat as it manages to tick all the boxes, both in terms of technical aspects and narrative strength. And I am not ashamed to admit that the film is so utterly charming and compelling that I would frankly feel inclined to take Paddington’s example and give anyone who disagrees a very hard stare indeed.
Verdict: 10 out of 10.