Paddington 2 delivers positive entertainment for all audiences
It is tempting to frame Paddington 2 within the context of its filmic references: subtle imagery resembling shots in Pierrot le fou and The Third Man, as well as an overall visual and musical resemblance to The Grand Budapest Hotel. Similarly, the movie could be centered within its time, being seen as a response to Brexit by British filmmakers. However, Paddington 2 needs no external justifications to be enjoyed.
The story picks up where the original Paddington film — one which is pleasant, though watching it is not required for proper enjoyment of its sequel — left off, with the animated bear Paddington and his adoptive family, a live-action British bunch known as the Browns.
After leaving the jungles of Darkest Peru for the streets of England, Paddington wishes to send a birthday gift to another adoptive relative, a bear named Aunt Lucy, currently living in an old-age home for bears, a place that was surprisingly revealed to not be a metaphor for death in the previous film.
Paddington finds a pop-up book of London that he thinks Aunt Lucy would love. While working to earn the money to buy it, the bear sees the book being stolen, only to be blamed for the crime when the perpetrator gets away.
Paddington, voiced by Ben Whishaw, is a tender and kind bear. His actions, big and small, are aimed to help others. He is also polite, often citing the advice of Aunt Lucy to be well-mannered and pleasant to others. It is his infective kindness that helps make the film so sweet.
The theme of Paddington 2 is one of being nice to others, helping and supporting those in need — even if they do not ask for anything. Paddington’s positive energy rubs off on his fellow characters, as he cures loneliness, melancholy and hard exteriors with his genuine attempts to reach out to others.
The villain of the film is a once-famous actor, Phoenix Buchanan, played by Hugh Grant. This character is but one of the many highlights of this movie. Phoenix disguises himself as a homeless man, a knight and a nun, among others. Grant’s acting is impeccable, and he slides in and out of character in Phoenix’s studio, becoming Macbeth, Hamlet and Ebenezer Scrooge, plotting an evil treasure hunt. Grant has fun with the role and this is carried out on the big screen.
Paddington is a clumsy bear and his mishaps are often used for great set pieces. Delightful sequences include a paced attempt at window-washing and a mistaken red sock in a washing machine. There is a cringeworthy nature to these moments, difficult as it is to see every single mistake billow into disaster. Still, the bear’s discomfort is funny due to the humor of the situations he got himself into.
In Paddington 2, there is a steady flow of emotion across the spectrum. Joy and delight can be readily expected, yet it is the stretches of sorrow that truly touch the viewers’ hearts. Paddington’s sweet connection with his family is spoiled by the presumption of guilt, and the fear of being forgotten manifests in an empty spot on the other side of a prison phone booth. The bear’s optimism is strong, and when the waves of despair finally reach the point where they can break him down, the fall is disastrous.
Paddington 2 is structured around this character and his sense of hope. The music, like Paddington, is plucky and cheerful. The atmosphere is one where affection between strangers can exist. Advocating for kindness, the film is true family entertainment, and a story for people of any age.
Beyond its positive message, Paddington 2 is an incredibly entertaining film. Richard Ayoade has a memorable cameo as a forensic marmalade expert. Big laughs come from characters entering the frame in just the right way, or from a misspelled tattoo on a prison chef’s knuckles. Significant moments of humor are surrounded by the small bits that just keep coming, ready for each viewer to have their own favorite little part.
By its title and its marketing, Paddington 2 seems like the type of film that would disappear into streaming libraries online, a blip in the cinematic radar. The plot hook of searching for a present sounds like it would fit into a cheesy straight-to-DVD sequel.
Paddington did not seem to have an extensive following, and the general quality of live-action family movies with animated woodland creatures is not high. Despite all this, Paddington 2 manages to be excellent.
There are plenty of issues one may have logically with the film. There are contrivances and conveniences to serve the plot. Some serious questions could be leveled against the judicial system of Paddington’s England, yet none of these problems matter. Paddington 2 is an opportunity to be swept away into pleasure and kindness. It is sweeter than the marmalade its protagonist loves so much, and logical qualms are an unnecessary distraction.
There are plenty of movies that can be framed as stories that the world needs right now. It is easy to find a message in a story that can tie it particularly to a time or political agenda, but Paddington 2 works as a timeless film for people of all ages, no framing necessary. The movie asks people to be kind and polite in order to make the world a better place.