A Bear-rific Experience

Paddington, once again, fumbles his way into our hearts and minds with an earnestness that will tug at the heart strings of even the most hardened observer. Based on a screenplay by Paul King and Simon Farnaby and also directed by Paul King, this lavishly shot movie feels like a children’s book come to life in gorgeous technicolor. If ever a perfect January movie existed, Paddington 2 is it; bringing more laughs, zany hijinks and even touching moments than the original.

Ben Whishaw reprises his role once again as the voice of the polite, loveable and Marmalade-loving bear we have all come to know as Paddington. Imelda Staunton and Michael Gambon also reprise their roles as the voices of Aunt Lucy and Uncle Pastuzo respectively. We pick up with Paddington and the Brown family after he has become settled in the neighborhood and made a staple in the community. He is loved by all and useful to each member in the neighborhood in different ways that have made him invaluable to have around. Paddington desires to purchase a special present for his Aunt Lucy in preparation for her 100th birthday. While trying to raise the money to buy said present, it was stolen by a mysterious figure and thus began the adventure that Paddington was thrust into.

Upcoming Cinematographer Erik Wilson brings a visual style brimming with such joie de vivre that every scene feels sublime in its construction and fluid in motion. The camera moves through each setting with ease taking the audience around and through the locations showing a creativity in cinematography rarely seen on film. Gary Williamson brings his stellar production design techniques from the first Paddington movie to this one as well, making each frame come to life with a myriad of colors and hues that perfectly encapsulate the spirit of Paddington himself.

The standout performances here from the many cast of characters include Hugh Bonneville as Mr Brown, who proves once again that he has real comedic abilities. Sally Hawkins is a joy to behold as she chews up each scene with gusto and finesse, cementing herself as the human counterpart of the coin opposite Paddington. Hugh Grant, however, seems to give Paddington a run for his money here, as he gives a performance that is gleeful and unhinged, delivering lines that are hilarious in their execution and effective in their characterization. In a role that could have come dangerously close to being an unfunny caricature of a cartoon villain, Hugh Grant proves why his skills as a thespian are what were needed for this movie. Madeleine Harris and Samuel Joslin also reprise their roles from the first Paddington as the children; Judy Brown and Jonathan Brown respectively. The screenplay attempts to give them an arc in terms of character development but both end up being underutilized here.

All in all, Paddington 2 is by a rare feat of Hollywood magic; better than the original. It bursts and shines with glorious visuals and even moments of real tension and suspense. It is a perfect experience for the whole family and one that deserves to be seen more than once. There are many lessons to be learned here for children and adults alike; like the power of faith, kindness, love, and acceptance. There is also a not so subtle commentary on immigration and its current divisiveness in our society embedded in the story here. Paddington may never become a household name but he will not leave our collective psyche anytime soon, infecting us with his optimism and zest for life that demand to be taken seriously, albeit in the most polite way possible. Let Paddington pull you into his world and show you why “If we’re kind and polite, the world will be right.”

Score: 8/10

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