Reviewed by: Blake Wilson
|Featuring:||Brendan Gleeson … Knuckles McGinty
Hugh Grant … Phoenix Buchanan
Michael Gambon … Uncle Pastuzo (voice)
Peter Capaldi … Mr. Curry
Sally Hawkins … Mary Brown
Ben Whishaw … Paddington (voice)
Jim Broadbent … Mr. Gruber
Hugh Bonneville … Henry Brown
Madeleine Harris … Judy Brown
Samuel Joslin … Jonathan Brown
Julie Walters … Mrs. Bird
Noah Taylor … Phibs
Imelda Staunton … Aunt Lucy (voice)
Joanna Lumley … Felicity Fanshaw
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|Director:||Paul King—“Paddington” (2015)|
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“It takes a bear to catch a thief”
Prequel: “Paddington” (2015)
Paddington Bear (voiced by Ben Whishaw) is settling into his new home with the Brown family in London. His Aunt Lucy’s birthday is coming up, and he wants to do something special for her because, as he says, “She’s done so much for me.” Upon visiting Mr. Gruber’s antique shop, he spots a very unique pop-up book that immediately strikes his attention. Mr. Gruber tells him he needs 1,000 coins to buy it, so Paddington decides to get a job in order to save up money.
After failing his first couple of jobs, Paddington finally finds a job worth doing in window washing. Close to being all saved up, Paddington witnesses a robbery at Mr. Gruber’s store, and is arrested falsely. Will the Browns be able to find a way to clear his name? Will the real criminal be revealed?
Like the previous film, “Paddington 2” is an appealing production. From the friendly Windsor Gardens neighborhood to the prison, it’s all handled in a friendly and memorable children’s book-style panache. There’s even a moment where the prison turns into a miniature dollhouse, giving us a unique perspective (similar to how the Brown’s house was treated in the original). Perhaps the best visual effect, however, is a practical effect. A music box/vault is full of intricate detail. Some set designs are classical and refreshingly old-fashioned, as are the costumes.
The cast is wonderful. Whishaw once again brings Paddington to life with heart and soul. Hugh Bonneville gives a multi-faceted and versatile persona to Mr. Brown, while Sally Hawkins is equal parts loving and adventurous as Mrs. Brown, and Julie Walters shines again as Mrs. Bird. I was concerned whether or not the Browns would take a backseat to Paddington’s main storyline, but I was happy to see them given plenty to do. As for new characters, Brendan Gleeson turns in a memorable performance as Nuckels, the tough-as-nails prison chef (with a hidden soft side), while Hugh Grant is absolutely stupendous as actor Phoenix Buchannan. Shifting between different disguises and personas, he is such a fun on-screen presence.
The story is fairly straightforward and predictable, but it gives its characters a decent amount of depth. The villain of the story is given a little more background than Nicole Kidman’s Cruella de Vil-style villain in the first film. It never drags through its runtime, and keeps itself entertaining and well-paced. The ending is emotionally-satisfying. While not consistently funny, some jokes do work at making kids and parents chuckle.
On the downside, a few moments are out-of-place with the film’s light-hearted setting. A climactic train action sequence is too over-the-top, especially towards the end of the scene. A musical number with the prison inmates makes its way into the credits, and also feels like a very odd fit. Perhaps just an extra non-musical, comedic scene in the villain’s prison cell would have worked better.
Paddington encourages the message, “If we’re kind and polite, the world will be right.” That’s a counter-cultural message that lines up with with the ideas of Matthew 7:12, as well as Ephesians 4:32. Paddington treats others nicely, even when they might not deserve it. He does his best to have good manners, and also does his best to find the good in people. Every morning, he willingly reaches out to his neighbors and friends and shows care and compassion towards them. When he’s unsure of what to do, he always thinks about what his Aunt Lucy would do in any given situation.
Paddington also has a very strong positive work ethic and is willing to do anything he can to reach his goals. He never gives up, even when he keeps getting fired for accidents. He also tells the truth and tries to be positive in each situation he comes across. These very strong positive character traits rub off on the Browns. They clearly love Paddington very much, and are shown to do anything to help him clear his name.
Language: Mr. Brown uses “oh my g**” once. Someone sarcastically says, “Screw your courage.” There are a instances of mild name-calling.
Adult Content: One person wears a tight-fitting ballerina outfit. A man cross-dresses as a nun (in disguise to steal something), and a security finds the ‘nun’ “unusually attractive.” He later says, “stop that sultry sister!” A comment made about “buns” at a restaurant is taken out of context over a phone call. It is misinterpreted on the receiving end that someone has nice “buns.” A couple of people in the Windsor Gardens neighborhood strike up a romance, and we see them both in modest pajamas peeking out a window (adults in the audience may assume they slept together, though it will likely go over the heads of children).
Violence: A circus performer is killed by having her high wire cut (we see her fall toward the camera, then only see her lifeless body on the ground). Paddington has numerous pratfalls and slapstick falls. A climactic train action sequence involves the villain himself getting out a sword in defense, while someone else shoots a gun—which is revealed to only shoot plastic darts. Characters walk on the top of a train, and duck down last second when it comes to tunnels. Someone is shown in a precarious position hanging on between two moving train cars. A train car veers off-course and plunges into the river. Someone dives into the river to break someone out of the aforementioned car before he drowns. Paddington asks Nuckels how he’s so good with knives (his response: “You don’t want to know”). Someone breaks a window. Someone is knocked out with a plastic ball. A part of someone’s hair is shaved off. Some threats are issued in prison.
Drugs/Alcohol: Champagne is served on a train.
Other: A few inmates plot and execute a prison break. Paddington uses electric toothbrushes to clean out his ears and nose. Characters lie and mislead others (but later are either reprimanded for their actions or have a change of heart). A yoga class with meditation is seen briefly.
While it earned some of the best reviews of 2015, I didn’t find the original “Paddington” to be as amazing as many critics did. It probably was because I didn’t read the book as a child. So the lack of familiarity with the material probably didn’t serve me well. But upon rewatching the first movie in preparation for this sequel, I have found it to be a pretty good, old-school charmer.
So I didn’t expect very much out of this sequel (even with a rare 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes). But, the film I saw this time did exceed those expectations. “Paddington 2” is an improvement over its predecessor. With some great, memorable new characters, some appealing visuals, an adorable and heartfelt story and an even more wholesome feel (no taxidermy knife or drinking games this time), I couldn’t help being swept up in a film that really felt like it was tailored for the whole family. It manages to entertain kids and adults the old-fashioned way, without using (at least for the most part) adult humor or potty humor to help achieve this.
In the meantime, the Paddington character himself exudes true moral (and Biblical) character traits. His way of trying to be kind, polite, and serving others over himself makes him a strong character example for kids today. And while there may be some slapstick/perilous moments and an odd situation or two here and there, it never even comes close to bringing this sweet and fun adventure down.
From a storytelling perspective, it doesn’t reach the heights of the greatest family films of all-time. But, “Paddington 2” still gets 2018 started on the right foot (or in this case, the right bear paw).
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.