Paddington 2 opens with Paddington settled into a nice life with the Brown family. His Aunt Lucy’s 100th birthday is coming up, and he wants to give her a present fit for the occasion. Her dream had always been to visit London, and when Paddington finds an old popup book of London landmarks, he becomes determined to find a job, earn some money, and buy the book. Unfortunately, the book is stolen, Paddington is wrongfully blamed, and suddenly the loveable little bear is doing hard time in a British prison. But within days, the perpetually cheerful and optimistic Paddington has converted the prison kitchen into a fancy bakery. Seems a lot of the prisoners remember their grand mum’s recipe for one pastry or another. Hey, it’s a kid’s movie, and that’s simply the sort of thing that happens. Back at home, the Brown family tries mightily to find the real thief and clear Paddington’s name.
Improbable as many of the events are, they are all adequately set up over the course of the film. Not content with a single gun, Chekhov unloads an entire arsenal over the course of the film, but most of what happens is pretty funny, or at least amusing, so it’s ok. Overall, if you can accept the fantastical elements of a children’s story, Paddington 2 is reasonably well-written. And if you insist on strict realism, then why would you see a movie about a sentient, English-speaking bear to begin with.
The actors all look like they’re having a lot of fun, and they all interact quite convincingly with the CGI bear. With the brief exceptions of one or two obvious green screen moments, the effects blend seamlessly with the live action. Ben Whishaw (voice of Paddington) and the animators do an amazing job of bringing Paddington to life. He comes across as a living, breathing character able to show a wide range of believable emotions. Even when he’s being hopelessly naïve, or perhaps especially then, you can’t help but root for the little guy. And you really feel bad for him when things take a turn for the worse.
In one beautifully executed sequence, Paddington imagines taking Aunt Lucy (voiced by Imelda Staunton) on a tour of the London popup book. CGI bears traveling through a paper world could easily have come across as cartoonish, but the voice actors and animators made it come alive. You could feel Aunt Lucy’s wonder and Paddington’s unbounded joy as he showed her the sights.
Special mention to Hugh Grant as the dastardly and hilariously ridiculous Phoenix Buchanan. He looked like he was having a jolly good time with this role, and he was a lot of fun to watch.
No post-credits scene, but as the closing credits roll, the multi-talented prisoners take time out from their pastry baking to perform a Broadwayesque song and dance number that is entertainingly awful. At the same time, it’s not too far off from actual stage productions I have seen.
Paddington 2 falls into the category of kid’s movies that parents can enjoy, as opposed to endure. Kids will likely love it, and Mom and/or Dad will find plenty to chuckle at.
Overall rating: 8/10