To celebrate his beloved Aunt Lucy’s (voiced by Imelda Staunton) upcoming 100th birthday, Paddington (Ben Whishaw) decides to work hard to buy the antique pop-up book as a gift. When the book is stolen one night by a washed-up actor named Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant), Paddington ends up being accused instead. With Paddington’s in jail, it’s up to his family, the Browns (Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Julie Walters, Madeleine Harris and Samuel Joslin) to help him clear his name and find the real culprit.
The first Paddington movie was no doubt a charming, yet visually pleasing comedy-adventure that successfully brought the late Michael Bond’s beloved Paddington Bear books to life. The movie, of course, went on to make pots of money at the worldwide box-office and even scored two nominations (Best British Film and Best Adapted Screenplay) at the British Academy Film Awards.
Fast forward to three years, the marmalade-loving bear finally returns for the second round alongside writer and director Paul King with this highly-anticipated sequel. Although Paddington 2 doesn’t have the same timeless quality of a fish-out-of-water tale and near-perfect comic timing that anchored the first movie, it still does a good job for a sequel.
Ben Whishaw once again provides a likeable voice performance as Paddington, while the recurring supporting characters from the Brown family (Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Julie Walters, Madeleine Harris and Samuel Joslin) to Jim Broadbent as the antique shop owner Mr Gruber, all delivered their respectively wonderful performances. As for the newcomers to the franchise, Hugh Grant is in top form playing the sequel’s new antagonist, Phoenix Buchanan while Brendan Gleeson is also equally delightful as Knuckles McGinty, a tough but soft-hearted inmate who doubles as a cook in the prison.
King, who co-wrote the screenplay with actor Simon Farnaby (also reprising his minor role as Barry) this time around, brought enough positive vibes within the movie’s universal theme of family values. Kudos also go to King himself, who continues to prove his worth as a creative visual storyteller. Earlier in the movie, there is a dazzling scene where Paddington imagines he and his beloved Aunt Lucy reunite within the pop-up book of London landmarks. Then, there’s the nighttime chase sequence where you don’t particularly see it every day: Paddington rides an Irish wolfhound to pursue the pop-up book thief.
Other noteworthy set-pieces include the elaborate slapstick moment inside a barber shop and the Wes Anderson-like prison escape. In fact, I have to admit that watching the whole prison scene (the introduction of oddball inmates, the whimsical production design alongside the use of pastel colour palette and the symmetrical framing) is akin of experiencing an elaborate segment directed by the eccentric auteur himself.
However, as ambitious as the climactic Buster Keaton-like train chase sequence strive to be, the sudden poor green-screen work is a turn-off. It’s kind of odd, given the fact the visual effects department does a tremendous job with the lifelike CG creation of Paddington.
Remember not to leave your seats once the end credits start rolling: there’s a scene where Hugh Grant performing an upbeat musical number.