Ben Whishaw swaps James Bond for Michael Bond’s Paddington Bear in the sequel to 2014s hugely successful Paddington, simply named Paddington 2. Simply named, but ingeniously signalled by Paddington himself in the film’s opening.
In search of the perfect gift for his Aunt Lucy, Paddington discovers an old pop-up book in Mr Gruber’s antique shop and takes on a series of odd jobs to pay for it. When the book is stolen, Paddington enlists the help of the Brown family and some new-found friends to retrieve it and unmask the thief.
Director, Paul King, unveils some wonderfully creative moments; an interactive sequence involving the pop-up book utilising some of London’s most famous landmarks, a hilarious slap-stick Mr Bean-esque barber scene, a beautifully lush tropical jungle sprouting from a single tear and concluding with an exciting train-top chase reminiscent of Skyfall. Seriously.
Joining King are writers Simon Farnaby and Jon Croker. Their terrific script makes full use of the glittering cast’s comedic talent and they all seem to be having an absolute blast.
None more so than Hugh Grant as washed-up thespian, Phoenix Buchanan. Grant plays a plethora of characters and it’s a welcome reminder of just how good an actor he is. The twinkle in his eyes, lacking from some of his films over the years, that infectious grin and his positively charming accent are cranked up to 11 and he lights up the screen whenever he appears. Whether he’s a not so noble knight or an unusually attractive nun, Grant is having a ball as his pantomime performance hits all the right notes.
Brendan Gleeson also has free reign to exaggerate his character, a grizzly convict by the name of Knuckles McGinty, to superb effect. Gleeson leads a host of some fine comedy actors, including Tom Davis and Noah Taylor, to make their jailhouse rock.
Leading the way as the voice of Paddington, Ben Whishaw’s impeccably pitched innocence, naivety and comic timing, combined with some exceptional CGI make you forget you’re watching an animation.
The supporting characters are all played to perfection by an impressive ensemble cast including, Julie Walters, Sally Hawkins, Hugh Bonneville and Jim Broadbent with excellent turns by Tom Conti, Peter Capaldi, Joanna Lumley and Kobna Holdbrook-Smith.
Dario Marianelli’s delightful score is also a highlight, with a There’s Something About Mary style band, Tobago and d’Lime, appearing every now and then to belt out a tune.
Paddington 2 is a joyful smile all the way through. I grinned and would happily bear it again. The ending, although predictable, is surprisingly moving and the perfect conclusion to a wonderful family film full of charm and love. As Aunt Lucy would say, “If we’re kind and polite, the world would be right.” It’s a simple message and one we could all learn from.
Oh, and do stick around for a little treat during the credits. Prison has never looked so much fun!