Paddington 2 is the sequel to the pretty good and funny-in-a-British-sort-of-way Paddington from a few years ago. That movie was surprisingly good without knocking my socks off… and without knowing anything about the story books (except Paddington is a bear with a hat). The new film – which I was surprised was made – is very much a follow-up to that and is just as charming and low-key good (but great for families) as that one. Credit is due – they didn’t half-ass it.
Paddington 2 tells the story of the bear now settled in London with his human family, going about his life. He decides he needs to buy a special pop-up book of London for his bear aunt back in the jungle so he needs a job. One things leads to another, the book is stolen by a wily thief, and the bear is accused of the crime. And tossed into prison with hard-core criminals and a complete lack of marmite.
It’s a silly plot and largely just an excuse for gentle British humor and mannerisms, random and often bizarrely funny side jokes, and just a lot of silliness. And adorableness. This movie is aggressively charming and gentle but with humor that adults would find funnier than the kids… but without being dirty or objectionable. This is the most G rated PG movie ever (It gets the PG for some daring action at the end, probably).
I compare this to two trailers before the movie. The first is for (sigh) Sherlock Gnomes (the sequel to Gnomeo and Juliet) which has ‘mankini’ a gnome in a Borat-like bathing suit who farts in puddls and calls it a sauna. Or the Peter Rabbit trailer which is wildly updated for modern sensibilities… Paddington is not updated to be edgy or raunchy in any way. I’ve not read the books but I bet they aren’t far from the movie… and that’s to the credit of the movie it remains enjoyable.
Star of the show might just be Hugh Grant playing a washed-up star, now resorting to dog food commercials. He is the secret popup book thief and he does a very funny job and is clearly having more fun than anyone should have making a paycheck. He hams it up in a way that works because we know Hugh Grant as a comedic and romantic comedy actor. He brings his slightly hammy dithering person to the role of a hammy dithering popup book stealing ACTOR!!!
Not that other actors are bad. Ben Wishaw brings a gentle quietness to Paddington. The main human cast is brought over from the original, though the kid actors don’t get much to do. But then there’s a big cast of supporting British actors who are just having fun: Michael Gambon, Peter Capaldi, Jim Broadbent, Brendan Gleeson (as Knuckles, the hard-as-nails prison chef), and Joanna Lumley among others. Everyone is having fun.
So, yeah, this is a pretty fun little movie with a sometimes random and surprising sense of humor. It didn’t knock my socks off – it often felt a little episodic and a little too casual and gentle for my tastes – but I bet kids would love it. And their parents would have fun too.