“If we’re kind and polite the world will be right.” The advice Paddington’s Aunt Lucy gives him resonates throughout this delightful film. On the surface, “Paddington 2” appears to be another kids movie stuffed with slapstick humor and an obvious message. However, this shortchanges the film greatly. Much like the titular bear, the film is an absolute charmer. It’s simple premise and humor are the disguise for a film that is light on its feet, but has great lessons for all ages on how we should treat one another.
Paddington (voiced by Ben Wishaw) has enjoyed a comfortable life with the Brown family. In the spirit of giving, Paddington finds a pop-up book of London that he wishes to send his Aunt Lucy (Imelda Staunton) back in Peru. However, the store owner (Jim Broadbent) informs him its quite expensive. Paddington takes on a series of odd jobs to pay for the pop-up book. However, Paddington witnesses it being stolen. The authorities frame Paddington for the crime and send him to prison. While in prison, Paddington makes friends with the cook, Nuckles McGinty (Brendan Gleeson), and turns the prison into a five star restaurant built on marmalade cuisine. Meanwhile, the Brown family rallies the community to investigate who the real culprit is. Eccentric actor Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant) is the main suspect, as he draws upon his many disguises to solve the clues provided by the book.
The world of Paddington continues to be this candy colored utopia that somehow maintains a semblance to the real world. The production and costume design gives off the feeling of a children’s book come to life. It comes off as a more earnest version of Wes Anderson’s diorama look. Watching the film transports one back to childhood, where everything in the world looks so big and exciting. Even jail, as presented in the film, appears on the surface as scary, yet becomes light and welcoming once Paddington takes a hold of it. Phoenix’s treasure hunt takes us all around London, and allows for us to take in the unique world of the film. There is great potential for future stories to inhabit this world.
The performances as just as sparkling. Hugh Grant justly deserves the BAFTA nomination for supporting actor he was given. Whether he’s clad in a nun outfit or fighting with a bear on a train, Grant fully surrenders to the role. He fully understands what’s required of the role and delivers it with great zeal. Grant isn’t the only new member of the cast who shines. As the intimidating Nuckles McGinty, Brendan Gleeson excels at poking fun at his own image. His attachment to Paddington feels earned without cheapening his scary, intimidating presence.
The Brown family is littered with a master class of British actors. Sally Hawkins brings tremendous energy and pep to the role of Mary Brown, the loving matriarch as the family. While Hugh Bonneville was the stickler in the original film, as Henry Brown, this entry allows him to explore more physical comedy. He excels at being the buttoned up patriarch that’s learning to have more fun and whimsy in his life. There has never been a part that Julie Walters hasn’t elevated. As Mrs. Bird, she relishes every line and fully embodies her cantankerous wit.
It’s strange how this simple child’s film feels like an epic antidote to today’s fraught culture. The film, at its core, is a charming little fable of a bear trying to buy his aunt a birthday present. Yet, by the end, one feels this crazy burst of optimism. Communities can thrive through cooperation. Kindness can unite enemies. Positivity, politeness and manners win the day. Every character, good or bad, is treated with dignity and respect. This may be a story of a bear trying to do a good deed. However, it’s a film with a larger message of respecting one self and showing kindness to each other.