Understandably, there’s a sense of trepidation before sitting down to watch a sequel to a well-loved film. Can it measure up to the joys of the first? Or will it be coarser, less inventive? Could it be that the sequel was only conceived to cash in on the success of the original?
Read David's review of the first Paddington film
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Well, Paddington 2 more or less dispels those fears in its first few minutes. It builds on the charm and good-natured comedy of Paddington, which opened three years ago. You could even argue that it successfully broadens the base of its appeal. Paddington 2 has plenty to enchant children; its lovable, kindly little bear-hero has lost none of his appeal. But the madcap, yet often witty comedy being played out around him will find favour with adults.
The core characters remain the same. The little Peruvian immigrant bear (beautifully voiced once more by Ben Whishaw) still lodges with the Brown family; Hugh Bonneville and Sally Hawkins return as the parents, while their children are now entering adolescence.
Most of the cheerful neighbours on their west London street are still around, and have been somewhat augmented – notably with a judge (Tom Conti) and a once-famous actor, now fallen on hard times that do nothing to crush his vanity. His name is Phoenix Buchanan, and he is brilliantly played with dash and verve by Hugh Grant.
The story revolves around Paddington’s determination to find the perfect birthday gift for his beloved Aunt Lucy in Peru. In the depths of the antiques shop run by neighbour Mr. Gruber (Jim Broadbent, doing his best middle-European accent), he finds a lovely pop-up book featuring London landmarks. But it’s expensive, so Paddington takes odd jobs – in a barber’s, then cleaning windows – to raise the money.
To put it mildly, these ventures do not end well, and later Paddington finds himself accused of theft and sentenced to 10 years in Portobello Prison, where he gradually befriends the inmates and even warms the heart of the frankly terrifying jail cook Knuckles McGinty (Brendan Gleeson). Paddington is innocent, of course, and by this time we’ve guessed the identity of the real villain.
There’s sometimes a danger that Grant’s all-out performance might dominate the film – and what with his work here (and recently in Florence Foster Jenkins) he is once more a star to reckon with, as he was back in the days of Notting Hill – a film shot in the same neighbourhood as Paddington 2.
Yet the film truly belongs to the little bear. It combines its hero’s essential sweetness with a subtle assertion of important virtues: kindness, modesty, open-heartedness to neighbours. It’s all rather delightful, and a cause for celebration: Marmalade sandwiches all round!