“Paddington 2” is a charming, cheery, heartwarming adventure tale of the good-natured bear from Darkest Peru that will please adults (like me) who grew up reading the British book series as well as kids today who are just discovering Michael Bond’s tales of innocent chaos (and marmalade). The film is wildly successful in balancing silly slapstick for the kiddos with some quite funny gags and jokes for the grown ups. This is a rare movie where every single mention serves a purpose and eventually pays off. Pay attention to the little details because they’ll come into play somewhere later in the film, and mostly to witty effect at that.
Another area where “Paddington 2” succeeds is in its casting, featuring boisterous turns from Hugh Grant as villainous actor Phoenix Buchanan (make sure you stay through the closing credits for a wildly enjoyable bit from Grant) and a delightfully amusing Brendan Gleeson as the intimidating, hard as nails prison chef Knuckles McGinty. Sally Hawkins, riding high off a fantastic year (“The Shape of Water“), is so delightful as Mrs. Brown that it’s easy to see how versatile of an actor she truly can be. And then of course there’s Paddington (Ben Whishaw) himself, animated in such a remarkably lifelike, fluid style that you’ll swear he’s an actual bear.
The little bear spreads joy wherever he goes and is beloved by his London neighborhood community, whether it’s from washing the windows on their flats, reminding them to grab their keys, delivering fresh marmalade sandwiches for breakfast, or instigating a romance between the newsstand clerk and a recluse. The plot is simple and straightforward, as Paddington is sent to jail after being accused of a crime he didn’t commit. It sounds pretty serious but of course everything is made right in the end, and the film has an irresistible message of kindness and friendship that’ll warm even the coldest of hearts. Heck, even dear Aunt Lucy makes a cameo!
Take note that there are a couple of genuinely frightening moments where Paddington is in peril that may scare sensitive little ones (including an upsetting close call with drowning), but overall this is a bright and delightful charmer that’s great for the entire family.