Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
United Kingdom/France/USA, 2017. StudioCanal, Anton Capital Entertainment, Amazon Prime Instant Video, Canal+, Cine+, Heyday Films, Marmalade Films Ltd.. Screenplay by Paul King, Simon Farnaby, based on Paddington Bear created by Michael Bond. Cinematography by Erik Wilson. Produced by David Heyman. Music by Dario Marianelli. Production Design by Gary Williamson. Costume Design by Lindy Hemming. Film Editing by Jonathan Amos, Mark Everson. Washington Film Critics Awards 2018.
The adorable bear is back for another adventure in this worthy sequel to the first hit film. Paddington knows that his beloved Aunt Lucy’s 100th birthday is coming up and he wants to get her something special, hitting upon the perfect idea when his local antique seller (Jim Broadbent) shows him a very beautiful old pop-up book of London, the city his aunt always wanted to visit. The earnest ursine hero can’t afford the book’s price tag, so he decides to get a job and put a few pennies in his piggy bank, but thanks to his inability to make a sandwich without burning a house down is challenged when it comes to staying employed. An even bigger impediment to his goal occurs when he chases a thief out of Broadbent’s store who has made off with the book in question, which gets Paddington thrown into jail after being mistaken for the culprit, his family on the outside now dedicated to solving the robbery and clearing his name. Who could possibly have wanted that seemingly unimportant item even more than Paddington? Surely it can have nothing to do with the has-been actor (Hugh Grant), once a glorious leading player and now the star of dog food commercials, a man who delivers his nightly monologues to the costumed mannequins in his attic! Every opportunity to brighten a scene up with delicate humour is indulged, the laughs are plenty and so are the light plucks of the heart strings, everything made that much more amusing by the main character’s maintaining his manners and even temper in all situations no matter how dire (and the sequence where Paddington dyes all the prison uniforms pink and teaches his fellow inmates the appeal of a marmalade sandwich is a scream). The charm is maintained so thoroughly that the barely subtle message aimed at xenophobic Brexiteers (in the form of a dickish neighbourhood watchdog played by Peter Capaldi) never feels like preaching but, thanks to Ben Whishaw‘s capturing a spirit and soul with his voice work as the title character, reads as wonderfully sincere, wisely continuing Michael Bond’s original tales in which the pea-coated bear stood in for the many European refugee children pouring into World War II-era London. Brendan Gleeson does terrific comedic work opposite a computer graphically-created scene partner in the jail scenes, while Grant is magnificent as the greedy, unethical maniac who will stop at nothing to get that one thing that so few actors know anything about, financial security. A wonderful film for young and old alike.