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Paddington 2 - Review

Paddington 2

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 5 out of 5

BY TURNS charming and hilarious, Paddington 2 is that rare sequel that actually betters the original in almost every way.

Buoyed by the runaway success of its predecessor, screenwriters Paul King (who also directs), Simon Farnaby and Jon Croker have delivered a crowd-pleasing follow-up that delivers eye-catching spectacle, knockabout fun, self-deprecating wit and a genuinely heart-warming vibe that honours the legacy of original creator Michael Bond (who died in June this year at the age of 91) in effortless fashion.

Everything about this sequel works, from its beautifully rendered CGI central character, to its imaginatively choreographed set pieces, right down to the perfectly judged guest appearances. It even clocks in at a brisk 90-odd minutes, meaning that it doesn’t outstay its welcome.

The plot finds Paddington (once again voiced by Ben Whishaw) taking on a variety of odd jobs with a view to affording the perfect gift for his beloved Aunt Lucy’s 100th birthday – a unique (but expensive) pop-up book of London.

But once the book is stolen by local actor Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant), who views it as a way of turning his own fortunes around, Paddington is framed for the crime and sent to prison, leaving the Brown family (once again headed up by Hugh Bonneville and Sally Hawkins) to clear his name.

Unlike King’s 2014 original (which was upset by Nicole Kidman’s needlessly sinister villain), the plotting and pacing in this incredibly welcome sequel are perfectly balanced, making for a much better overall tone.

Paddington 2

Grant’s villain, while certainly villainous, is played much more tongue in cheek, thereby allowing the actor to send himself up rotten. It’s therefore one of the film’s great joys to find Grant donning various disguises (including a nun’s outfit) and mimicking Shakespeare in his quest to unlock the book’s secret treasures, while effortlessly making something of a buffoon out of himself to boot.

But Grant isn’t the only one on scene-stealing form. Paddington’s stay in prison affords him the opportunity to make several new [albeit unlikely] friends, the most notable of which is Brendan Gleeson’s wonderfully gruff head chef Knuckles, whose sensitive side is revealed by a shared love of Marmalade. Gleeson is pitch-perfect in the role, but never more so than while enduring the various mishaps placed upon him by Paddington’s attempts to win him over.

Tom Conti also shines as a moody judge, as do the likes of Hawkins and Bonneville as the Browns. Whishaw, meanwhile, imbues his Paddington with equal parts kindness, curiosity and bravery, thereby paving the way for a couple of moments of real poignancy towards the end. It’s a brilliantly judged performance and one that can’t help but melt even the hardest of hearts (as is Paddington’s want).

King’s direction, meanwhile, expertly juggles the need to keep things warm and fuzzy with moments of supreme excitement and well-judged, family-friendly humour. Crucially, he never overdoes the schmaltz, or at least ensures it is nicely offset by the humour.

Of the set pieces, an early experience at a barber’s is laugh-out loud funny, as are several of the prison sequences, while a finale aboard several trains is as eye-catching in its creativity as it is heart-in-mouth in terms of the sense of peril it affords.

And yet throughout, King invests the film with lovely touches – whether transforming Paddington’s prison cell into a jungle for a momentary flight of fancy, or allowing the pages of a pop-up book to come alive to indulge another of Paddington’s wish-fulfilment fantasies.

A tremendously moving finale, meanwhile, ensures that viewers of all ages will depart the cinema basking in the warm glow that this film provides, while looking back fondly on the many giggles it delivers along the way.

Paddington 2 is an unqualified success and fully deserving of its immediate classic status.

Certificate: PG
Running time: 95mins
UK Release Date: November 10, 2017