Paddington 2 is Everything You Could Ever Want From A Kid’s Film!
By Mary Vendega
For those of you who haven’t seen Paddington’s 2015 foray into film (98% on RT), it’s on Netflix. I’ll wait… Oh, good, you’re back! In this next installment, our fuzzy little protagonist (voiced by Ben Whishaw) is well settled in with the Browns and their charming London neighborhood. The Browns have continued their lives: Judy (Madeleine Worrall) is starting a newspaper, Mary (Sally Hawkins) is training to swim the channel and Jonathan (Samuel Joslin) is… going by J-Dog. In true Paddington fashion, he’s won the hearts of the neighborhood, save for Peter Capaladi’s Mr. Curry, and is thriving. They’ve even got a new neighbor – a famous actor (well, he was) named Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant). But everything changes when Paddington is framed for a crime and sent to jail. Part Nancy Drew novel, part Orange is the New Black, part Life Aquatic: the remainder of the film focuses on the efforts of the Browns to catch the real criminal while Paddington uses his sunny disposition and unwavering optimism to survive in jail.
The film is a lot like Paddington’s signature orange marmalade: smooth, sweet and incredibly unique. What I loved about Paddington was not lost in Paddington 2 but amplified. Paddington’s absolute insistence on finding the good in people and accepting their flaws was refreshing at a time like now. But it’s the film’s ability to infuse those messages into every detail that will live on for years to come. When Paddington first arrives in jail, his fellow inmates are of every color, shape and size, unusual for movie jail. When he accidentally dyes everyone’s clothes pink, not a single cheap shot is taken at femininity or weakness, the focus is on his mistake as a whole. He grows to care for these criminals and even teaches them a thing or two along the way.
The cast alone is a dream: Sally Hawkins returns as Mary Brown, the airy but sharp as a tack matriarch with Hugh Bonneville as her lovely but cautious husband; Jim Broadbent is back as Mr. Gruber, the antique shop owner; Julie Waters is once again hilarious as the snappy Mrs. Bird; Brendan Gleeson joins as Knuckles, the hardened jail chef; and Hugh Grant is the perfect self-absorbed Phoenix Buchanan (complete with a house full of framed portraits of Grant in his heartthrob days). The synergy of the actors is made only more impressive by the fact that the film’s star is a CGI bear. However, not unlike Ted (while somehow completely unlike Ted in every way), his appearance onscreen is seamless and completely believable.
Overall, it’s damn near perfect. I’m a sucker for a good kids movie, but Paddington 2 rose to a level above last year’s Lego Batman or Boss Baby, to a shelf previously reserved only for Pixar and Harry Potter. What can I say, the little guy’s got my heart, and I think he can steal yours too. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry (I did twice) and you’ll leave with a reminder that if a little bear can find the humanity to love and accept the unlikeliest among him, so can we.