The first Paddington film by Paul King was simple and pleasant. It took Michael Bond’s beloved character (voiced by Ben Whishaw) and put him in a context that is dazzling, colorful, and engaging. It tells the story of a cute and polite little bear who travels from the jungles of darkest Peru with a Marmalade sandwich under his hat to Paddington station in London where he meets the Brown family and becomes their adopted family member on a quiet little street called Windsor Gardens.
Paddington 2 takes the very likeable themes of the first film and deepens them, making them more colorful and even more enjoyable the second time around. Paddington 2 is a delight! It is as engaging as a family film can be and it is full of lively, hilarious, colorful characters and a better plot and villain than the first film.
Paddington Bear, now going by the name Paddington Brown, while content as ever with Henry and Mary Brown (Hugh Bonneville and Sally Hawkins) and their children and housekeeper Mrs. Bird (Julie Walters), dearly misses his Aunt Lucy (Imelda Staunton), an elderly bear living in the “Home for Retired Bears” back in Peru. Aunt Lucy happens to be turning one hundred years old and Paddington decides it is time to show her how much he loves her by sending her a birthday gift from London. Adorable, right? Paddington sets about trying to earn the money to buy an antique pop-up book of the sites of London from Mr. Gruber’s (Jim Broadbent) shop. What follows are a series of cleverly written and staged gags that made the audience in the theater erupt with laughter. When retired stage actor Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant) arrives on the scene, it spells trouble for Paddington and his mission to buy the pop-up book.
The funniest and most engaging part of the film happens, surprisingly, in a prison. Paddington encounters the prison cook, Knuckles McGinty (a superb Brendan Gleeson) and they strike up a relationship that becomes the comedic centerpiece of the entire feature. It is, seriously, some of the best comedy I have seen in a long time, as Gleeson recaptures some of the comedy he displayed in In Bruges.
Michael Bond’s (1926-2017) Paddington Bear series is the story of the refugee. The first Paddington film does a fine job of introducing the character of Paddington and his early plight of making the hard journey and transition from Peru to London. What Paddington 2 does is more complex: it takes Bond’s delightful characters and puts them in situations that demand thought and change. Paddington is now a resettled refugee, so to speak, and his plight is just as difficult, but quite different. Mr. Brown makes the point to the cantankerous Mr. Curry (Peter Capaldi), in fact, that he is only afraid of Paddington because Paddington is “different.” Simple? Yes. Important? Most certainly. Both Michael Bond and Paul King have a magical way of weaving moral tales of difference, hardship, and acceptance through a lens of accessibility, colorful characters, and gentle, whimsical humor.