I’m “biast” (con): nothing
I have read the source material (and I am indifferent about it)
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
Is Paddington 2 actually better than its predecessor, a feat of sequelism that is shockingly rare? Or is it simply that the world has gone so much to sh– well, an angry, naughty word that a polite young bear such as Paddington would never use — in the three years since the first film was released that 2’s gentleness and optimism is so much more necessary, so much more welcome, so much greater a contrast to reality?
Both of these things could be the case.
There is such kindness in Paddington 2, and in the heart of Paddington, that it damn near makes you want to cry. (Just give in and cry. It will feel great.) There is so much humanity, which suddenly seems too small a word when it is a small furry ursine who has such a positive effect on the people around him merely by expecting the best from them, and by assuming that all can be put right that is wrong or sad or uncomfortable in the world by a lavish deployment of marmalade sandwiches and bedtime stories. Perhaps the most wonderful thing about this movie is that you really and truly do believe that stories and sandwiches will fix everything, at least for the couple of hours when you are wrapped up in that warm and cosy vision.
Writer-director Paul King, returning from the first movie, achieves this stunning sweetness and charm while avoiding (once more) all the syrupy sanctimony that unfortunately drags down so many movies deemed as suitable for kids or for “families.” There is vivid, authentic life in the CGI Paddington (the voice of Ben Whishaw [In the Heart of the Sea, Spectre] again, still maybe the most perfect voice casting ever), and also — somehow, by some marvelous cinematic witchery — vivid, authentic life in the film’s storybook London. That sounds like a contradiction. It isn’t. What we have here is the London of dreams, like the one that brought Paddington from Darkest Peru in the first place. It’s the one he wants to share with his Aunt Lucy for her 100th birthday, by sending her the gift of a popup book about London, since she never has gotten to visit for herself. The animated sequence in which Paddington imagines the joy of sharing the city with his aunt through this book — he sees the two of them running around the popup scenes — is happiness itself.
Oh, but alas, that popup book is quite old and a little bit famous, and Mr. Gruber the antiques dealer (Jim Broadbent: Bridget Jones’s Baby, The Legend of Tarzan) cannot sell it for less than the princely sum of £500; he is under strict orders from the estate it is part of. So Paddington embarks upon a series of odd jobs to earn the money… but he doesn’t get far before the book is stolen right from Mr. Gruber’s shop and Paddington himself is blamed for the crime. Oh no! Now his adopted human mother, Mary Brown (Sally Hawkins: X+Y, Godzilla), leads the investigation to clear Paddington’s name while the poor bear languishes in prison. Well, perhaps “languish” isn’t quite the word: Paddington keeps busy spreading his own personal brand of marmalade-fueled exuberance there, too, though grumpy prison chef and inmate Knuckles McGinty (Brendan Gleeson: Live by Night, Suffragette) may prove to be Paddington’s biggest challenge yet. Or will that dubious honor fall to washed-up actor and Paddington’s Windsor Gardens neighbor Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant [Florence Foster Jenkins, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.], having a ball sending himself up), who does not seem very enamored of the young bear? Or is that he is simply far more enamored with himself?
Adventure! Intrigue! Daring escapes and rescues! A prison break! A treasure hunt! A train chase! Afternoon tea! There is so much to love in Paddington 2, and not a single misstep. This is a fantasy of unique scope and astonishing emotional depth beneath the silliness. There is no single moment here that isn’t an absolutely enrapturing bear hug of snuggly, heartwarming delight. This is exactly the movie we need right now. You will want to escape into it and stay there forever.
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