Paddington 2 (2018) Review

IF WE’RE KIND AND POLITE,

THE WORLD WILL BE RIGHT


 

Back at the beginning of 2015, during the same January opening weekend that Kevin Hart’s comedy film Wedding Ringer and Bradley Cooper’s bio-pic drama American Sniper were released, a little and polite bear made his first big-screen debut with the movie Paddington. First released in November of 2014 in the UK (before making his US debut a few months later), Paddington, which was based off of the book character of the same name from author Michael Bond, was directed by Paul King and the tale of a young polite bear named Paddington, who moved into the Brown family in London and learned what it meant to be a part of a family, while evading the grips of a villainous taxidermist. It was a whimsical film that featured childish fun and mischief, with the movie being targeted for the young “juice box” crowd”, but also presented a heartwarming tale of family and acceptance. Paddington went on gain mostly positive reviews from both critics and moviegoers everywhere and did gain a sizeable return on its investment, cultivating roughly $268 million against its production budget, which estimated around $50 million. This success proved strong enough for a follow-up adventure to be greenlit to be commissioned in sometime in the near future. Now, StudioCanal, Heday Films and director Paul King present the second chapter in the world’s most “polite” bear with the movie Paddington 2. Does this second installment shine bright as its predecessor or does it fail to impress and lack emotional heart and mischievous fun in this second helping of a feature?

THE STORY


The good natured and well-manned Paddington Bear (Ben Whishaw) has settled in nicely into his new life with the Brown family, including Mr. Henry Brown (Hugh Bonneville), Mrs. Mary Brown (Sally Hawkins), Judy Brown (Madeleine Harris), Jonathan Brown (Samuel Joslin), and Mrs. Bird (Julie Walters) in Windsor Gardens, having become very well-liked and helpful member of the community and its residents. Seeking the perfect gift to give to his Aunt Lucy (Imelda Staunton) for her upcoming 100th birthday, Paddington finds what he’s looking for in Mr. Gruber’s (Jim Broadbent) old antique shop, a one of a kind pop-up book that takes its readers on a tour of London’s most famous landmarks, which gives Aunt Lucy a chance to see and experience the famed city that she had always dreamed of visiting one day. In order to pay for the relatively expensive pop-up book, Paddington takes a variety of odd-end jobs to raise the necessary money, eventually finding a niche as a window washer. However, when Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant), a washed-out actor who lives down the street from the Browns, steals the pop-up book from Mr. Gruber’s shop, Paddington is blamed for the crime and winds up being sent to prison. Determined not to lose faith, Paddington keeps his head up while serving time, doing his best to befriend his fellow inmates, including the prison’s ill-tempered cook Nuckles McGinty (Brendan Gleeson). Meanwhile, the Browns set out to clear Paddington’s name and uncover not only who really stole the pop-up book, while Phoenix Buchanan scours for the book to find mysterious clues scattered across London’s cityscape for a long-lost treasure trove.

THE GOOD / THE BAD


Paddington Bear. While author Michael Bond’s books weren’t exactly a part of my childhood literature, I do remember the character through the 1975 BBC TV series, which was my first introduction to Paddington. They were short, sweet, simple, and (presumably) carrying the same type of moral theme / message from Bond’s original material. This, of course, brings me around to talking about the live-action film (Paddington) that was released back in 2014. While I did mention that they were a few minor bumps in the film, the movie itself was quite charming and heartwarming, especially in its overall presentation as well as the sensible all-British cast that populate all of the film’s various characters (both major and minor). It was definitely made for the “juice box” crowd, but Paddington is a great family-friendly movie that certainly will make you laugh as well as tug on the heartstrings.

I do remember hearing that Heday Films (the masterminds behind Paddington) decided that they were going to green light a sequel feature, furthering continuing the adventures of the polite bear’s adventures in London with the Brown family. However, that was quite some time since the first one and I sort of forgot about the second Paddington movie. That was until I saw the movie trailers of the new film and it sort of peaked my interest to see it. Much like what I said before, the film’s all-British cast was what made the first one interesting and Paddington 2 seems to keep the sensible notion very much alive (as shown in the film’s various trailer and promo TV spots). Plus, given what was shown in those trailers, it seems like the movie would be very much of the same tone and style, which (all things considered on the first film) is a good thing. Thus, I was definitely looking forward to seeing how Paddington 2 ultimately shaped up. Unfortunately, while I did see this movie when it was first released in US (back in January 2018), actually doing an actual movie review for Paddington 2 sort of fell through the cracks as I sort of got busy and decided to review other movies that were current and more popular. Thus, this is where I am now, finding myself ready to review Paddington 2. What did I think of it? Well, to be honest, it actually really good. Despite a few minor complaints, Paddington 2 is a delightful and charm sequel to its original. In a nutshell, this “second helping” of Paddington Bear is quite endearing and succeeds more than many other follow-up cinematic adventures of a similar nature.

Returning to the director’s chair for Paddington 2 is Paul King, who previous directed the first film as well as directing several TV shows, including The Mighty Boosh, Dogface, and Come Fly with Me. Given his familiarity of making the first Paddington movie, King seems to return “right at home” when helming this second endeavor, making Paddington 2 a very similar in tone, style, and fashion to its predecessor, which is sort of a good thing. Build upon what was established from the 2015 film (as well as from Bond’s books), King continues to make a poignant and meaningful message (thematically and within the subtext of the narrative) of the importance of the kaleidoscope of community in London, displaying a variety of people / individuals that live and breathe around the city and interact with Paddington. Additionally (like before), King almost makes an importance of celebrating diversity and tolerance through the film’s story and all of its characters, which does speak to a modern audience of moviegoers in being fundamental towards the real world (which is always a good thing from a any type of movie). Also, King still keeps the film’s comedy aesthetics to a more juvenile slapstick variety, which is approachable for all ages, and, while that may be a slight distraction for some, I think it works best for the movie. The first Paddington had those particular comedy filled moments and so does again with this sequel, which are a little bit better presented and more humorous (I think), especially seeing all the various problems that Paddington actually causes in trying to do the right thing. All in all, King returning to the director’s chair doe Paddington 2 is a great thing, keeping this follow-up sequel cute, fun, and heartwarming and just as family friendly as the first film was.

The movie’s script, which was penned by King as well as Simon Farnaby is also equally beautiful, displaying the right amount of kindness and generosity within the film’s narrative as well as being both entertaining and heartfelt that compliments that the film (as a whole). There’s a certain touch of sincerity throughout the movie (even the more lighthearted / comedic aspects) that resonates with the movie itself, invoking a strong sense of Paddington’s journey in the movie (i.e. feeling what he feeling and the importance of family). Being a kid’s movie, there’s plenty to like, which is aimed at the “juice box” crowd, but that doesn’t mean that the film is able to cater to older individuals. In truth, the film’s messages and themes are rather quite (again, speaking to a modern world) as well being familiar to a lot of family movies out there. This makes Paddington 2 approachable for all as the film’s story is cute and tender as well as being joyful and entertaining. Plus, with the movie having a runtime of only 103 minutes long (one hour and forty-three minutes), King keeps the feature’s narrative moving at brisk pace; tightly weaving the movie’s story threads together in an even-keel way (for the most part). All in all, Paddington 2 succeeds at being both entertaining and meaningful within its own cinematic undertaking, never going on any unnecessary tangents or uncalled for moments that would distract the film’s true sentimental heart.

In terms of technical presentation, Paddington 2 looks great, keeping in the same filmmaking background rhythm and tone from its predecessor. While the movie’s story is a pure to joy to watch, the film’s technical background aesthetics work and work well, finding King’s style in crafting the feature similar to a children’s storybook feel (something akin to Bond’s books). There’s a great sense of quirky details and child-ish wonder that blends together in the movie, combining both to make a colorful palette cinematic world for Paddington and all the rest of the colorful characters to move around in. What also helps Paddington 2 (in it’s overall “look and feel”) is that cinematographer Erik Wilson, production designer Gary Williamson, set decorations by Cathy Cosgrove, and costume designs by Lindy Hemming (all of which worked on the first Paddington movie) return to their respective posts, offering up their artistic approach in making the feature feel the just the same as last time, which I personally loved. In this regard, while sometimes change is a good then, I think matching the same exact background setting and style works in the movie’s favor, giving us (the viewers) a sense of cinematic quality of familiarity. Basically, there’s nothing I would’ve change in the film’s technical presentation and I think many will agree on that. Lastly, while the film’s musical score, which was composed by Dario Marinelli, is very good and definitely plays some melodic melodies piece throughout (both lighthearted and tender ones), I love the fact that Paddington 2 sees the return of the calypso music group Tobago and d’Lime to function as the movie’s Greek chorus.

There were a few minor problems that I had with Paddington 2 that, despite the film being a bit more well-rounded (entertaining-wise), felt that could’ve been slightly better handled. It doesn’t really deter from me overall liking the movie, but there are a few pieces that stood out (at least to me). The one that stands out is the film’s narrative path. Yes, while I do praise the film for featuring a somewhat similar appeal to its predecessor, the some of the similarities between the two Paddington films can be (at times) vaguely identical. Thus, means the movie follows a formulaic path and, while that might be the “nature of the game” (especially with King returning to direct the feature), it does become slightly rigid and conventional predictable at certain points. I know it’s a kid’s movie and all (and I shouldn’t judge it too hard), but a little “freshness” to the narrative couldn’t have hurt.

Another problem with the movie is that Paddington 2 follows the classic path of trying to “go big” when it should’ve remained “small”. This tried and true method is almost commonplace for a sequel movie endeavor, with the studio (behind the feature) trying to overtake the liking of the first one by trying to present a bigger story and a bigger adventure. Paddington 2’s story, while cute and charming throughout, follows that particular method to a certain degree, most notable in Phoenix’s treasure hunt throughout the city of London as well as the film’s climatic piece during the third act that involves train chase. It’s all good and fun (there’s no denying that), but a story like this doesn’t need to “go big” and could’ve benefited a bit more if was more on a smaller scale adventure for Paddington and his family to experience. Personally, the tale of Paddington should be more a character based cinematic endeavor rather than trying to big, loud, and boisterous with large set-pieces. It doesn’t derail my appeal to Paddington 2, but it’s one aspect could’ve been changed slightly. Another problem I felt with the film was in some of the characters (i.e. the Brown family members) don’t get the same amount of screen-time as they did in the previous movie, but I’ll explain more on that below. Again, all these points are minor criticisms and don’t really deter my overall liking of these touching kid’s movie…. just minor complaints that could’ve been “tweaked” here and there.

One of the strongest aspects of the first Paddington film was the all-around British cast that had a hand in shaping the various characters of the feature. Luckily, lightning strikes twice with Paddington 2, with many (if not) all the cast from the first movie returning to reprise their respective roles as well as several fine new additions for this sequel adventure. At the head of the feature (and literally the “beating heart” of the movie) is actor Ben Whishaw as the friendly and polite bear named Paddington. Known for his roles in Skyfall, In the Heart of the Sea, and Marry Poppins Returns, Whishaw is the perfect embodiment of Bond’s classic children character, projecting the exact tone, mannerisms, and overall child-like politeness one would expect from the character of Paddington. Speaking of which, Paddington himself (in these movies) remains one of the most expressive CGI characters I’ve personally seeing in most. While there have been more detailed digital creations from such larger blockbuster features (from the superhero genre of late), there’s something how Paddington is rendered in these movies that works beautiful, which is combination of the computer wizardry artists and Whishaw’s vocal performance. To be honest (and I know that this sounds stupid), Paddington 2 seamlessly integrates / weaves the photorealistic bear into its proceedings to a certain point that it is easy to forget that he’s not actually there, especially in how vividly imagine on-screen through his body movement and facial expressions / emotions. Of course, being the main focus, the journey that Paddington undergoes in the movie is touching and heartfelt and definitely speaks to the inherit likeability of the character. In short, Whishaw continues to impress with his vocals of Paddington as well as the character himself is just so cute and adorable.

Likewise, Paddington’s entire adoptive human family (i.e. the Browns) return as well, with all the actors and actress returning to play their respective roles once again. This includes actor Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey and Notting Hill) as Henry Brown, actress Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water and Godzilla) as Mary Brown, actor Samuel Joslin (The Impossible and The Go-Between) as Jonathan Brown, actress Madeleine Harris (Man Down and The White Queen) as Judy Brown, and actress Julie Walters (Harry Potter movies and Mamma Mia!) as Mrs. Bird. Collectively, it was a delight to see all these actors and actresses return to the screen (and in their same characters) for Paddington 2. The only downside to the Brown family (in Paddington 2 that is) is the fact that most of them don’t have a lot to do this time around. Sure, each one is presented with a unique problem / trait that each must overcome and accomplish by the film’s end, but they all seem to be pushed aside in this sequel (they had a more paramount role in the first movie). Perhaps the reason for that is that Paddington is more of the focal point and how he interacts with a lot of Paddington’s 2 characters (both new and old) rather than just simply the Brown family. Regardless, all the Brown family members (including the cast that plays them) surely does add a certain continuity to the feature, with each one bringing quality performance to their roles.

Other returning supporting characters from the first film includes actor Peter Capaldi (Doctor Who and The Thick of It) as the Brown’s nosy neighbor Mr. Curry, actor Jim Broadbent (Moulin Rouge and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince) as the owner of the antique shop Samuel Gruber, and Harry Potter alums actor Michael Gambon and actress Imelda Staunton returns to reprise their vocal performances of Paddington’s Uncle Pastuzo and Aunt Lucy respectfully.

As for the main newcomers to the Paddington movies, actors Brendan Gleeson (Cold Mountain and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) and Hugh Grant (Notting Hill and Bridget Jones’s Diary) do exceptionally in their respective roles as Nuckles McGinty. and Phoenix Buchanan. Gleeson is simply a joy to watch as Nuckles, the stern / hardened demeanor criminal chef whose softer and more vulnerable is brought out when he befriends the ever-so polite Paddington Bear. The juxtaposition duality of their friendship (both physical size and character personality outlooks) are what makes their on-screen chemistry work and work brilliantly when together. Meanwhile, Grant gets to have a gleeful blast as Phoenix, chewing threw his dialogue lines as the character with wonderfully cartoon-ish villainy of a vain (and washed out) actor. Its definitely a role, while may not be his most memorable role of his career, that Grant seems to relish playing, especially since his character of Phoenix is a pretty vain and gets a bit “carried away” into costumed roles that he’s done over the years. Even more funny is that Paddington 2 takes a few subtle humorous jabs at Grant’s handsome lead in many paramount romantic comedy roles from 1990s and 2000s era, which did give a few chuckles (and I think Grant loved it as well). In short, Grant is perfect as Phoenix Buchanan and certainly does give a fine over-the-top performance in the movie.

Rounding out the cast are all the new minor supporting characters in the movie (most consisting of the prison inmates with Nuckles), including actor Tom Davis (Free Fire and Murder in Sucessville) as T-Bone, actor Noah Taylor (Game of Thrones and Vanilla Sky) as Phibs, and actor Aaron Neil (The Promise and Class) Spoon, as well as others various folks in and around London, including actor Robbie Gee (Snatch and Underworld) as Mr. Barnes, actor Ben Miller (Death in Paradise and Johnny English: Strikes Again) as Colonel Lancaster, actor Sanjeev Bhaskar (London Boulevard and Absolutely Nothing) as Dr. Jafri, actor Tom Conti (The Glittering Prize and Derailed) as Judge Gerald Biggleswade, and actor Richard Ayoade (The IT Crowd and The Watch) as an unnamed Forensic Investigator.

Lastly, be sure to stick around for the film’s ending credits. No, it’s not a super-secret Easter egg preview for Paddington 3, but it’s a fun and amusing sequences that will surely make you laugh (I certainly did).

FINAL THOUGHTS


Paddington Bear returns to the silver screen for another kid-friendly romp of comical fun, mischievous intrigue, and heartfelt warmth in the movie Paddington 2. Director Paul King’s latest film sees the return of Michael Bond’s beloved literary creation and presents worthy successor his original 2015 film. While there were a few minor grumbles with the movie, the film itself succeeds in expanding upon its original feature, providing new ground for a sequel adventure, never compromising on its child-ish wonder / cinematic integrity, and a wholesome direction from King’s vision of the film as well as superb and firmly solid cast (both major and minor ones). Personally, I loved this movie. It was cute, fun, heartwarming (the ending gets teared a few times), and definitely entertaining as a follow-up to the 2015 film. Much like many have said about this movie, Paddington 2 was one of those rare sequels that actually improves upon its predecessor. Plus, there’s a reason why the movie is still currently holding (at the time of this review) a 100% percent “fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes (even if you don’t trust the Rotten Tomatoes website, you should for this movie). Thus, as you can imagine, I would give this movie my “highly recommended” stamp of approval as fan of the first Paddington film will thoroughly enjoy this second installment, while newcomers can easily climb aboard the “Paddington Bear” bandwagon here and will enjoy this movie as well. While it has been mentioned that a third Paddington movie will soon materialize in the future, Paddington 2 stands as crowning achievement in family friendly entertainment, shining as a gentle feature film that’s just as poignant and fun as it is playful and meaningful. To me, I think we should all live by Paddington Bears words in the movie…. “if we’re kind and polite, the world will be right”.

4.5 Out of 5 (Highly Recommended)

 

Released On: January 12th, 2018
Reviewed On: December 11th, 2018

Paddington 2  is 103 minutes long and is rated PG for some action and mild rude humor

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