By Mark Saldana
Rating: 4 (Out of 4 Stars)
Paddington is love. Paddington represents an ideal that all humanity should try to achieve. To quote The Room‘s Tommy Wiseau, “If a lot of people love each other, the world will be a better place to live.” I know that quoting the enigmatic filmmaker, who made one of the world’s worst movies, probably seems odd, but Tommy gets what Paddington is all about. The well-mannered little bear with the British accent is back in theaters with a second movie that only builds on what the first one accomplishes. With much more infectious charm, an extra dose of delightful humor, and a phenomenal comic turn by Hugh Grant, Paddington 2 is here to offer audiences another message of love from which everyone in this world could learn so much.
After adjusting to life in London with the Brown family, Paddington, in a short amount of time, has made several friends in the neighborhood. From the neighbors next door to even the local garbageman, the little bear always finds ways to help his friends. Though he is quite content with his new family, Paddington still misses his Aunt Lucy (Imelda Staunton) and dreams of sharing what he loves about London with her. When local antique shop proprietor Mr. Gruber (Jim Broadbent) gets a hold of a rare pop-up book that highlights the sights of London, Paddington decides to work odd jobs to buy the expensive book for Aunt Lucy to enjoy. The marmalade-loving bear has one major obstacle to overcome, though. A once famous, but now struggling, actor named Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant) stands in his way and will stop at nothing to acquire the book.
Written and directed by Paul King who co-wrote with Simon Farnaby, Paddington 2 is a wonderfully exceptional sequel that outshines its predecessor. I had somehow missed the first installment when it played in theaters, but finally took a moment to watch it the night before the Paddington 2 screening. In short, I loved the first movie, but feel that the sequel really drives home its messages of love, has five times the charm, and humor that had me laughing way more. King and Farnaby have come up with some absolutely lovable moments, hilarious scenarios and exciting adventures to challenge the temperament of the courteous bear. Not only does this sequel offer audiences more of what makes the first film special, the movie also features more superbly talented actors who all appear happy to join on the Paddington train.
Michael Gambon, Imelda Staunton, Madeline Harris, Samuel Joslin, Sally Hawkins, Hugh Bonneville, Jim Broadbent, and Julie Walters all return to their respective roles from the first film, along with some of the other supporting cast members who have memorable moments. For the new movie, they are joined by wonderful additions Brendan Gleeson, Noah Taylor, Tom Conti and a few other familiar faces from British film and television. It is Hugh Grant, however, who gives a stellar performance as Phoenix Buchanan. Much like Nicole Kidman in the first movie, Grant gives a standout turn as the film’s villain; however, he gets more opportunities to show his range of talents than she does. It is a brilliant realization of a character that goes to absurd places and pokes fun at the narcissism of actors.
On the flip side of the hero/villain dynamic is Ben Whishaw whose outstanding voice work helps bring Paddington to life. Whishaw’s soft spoken delivery injects the perfect amount of heart and earnestness that Paddington represents. As I stated in the first sentence of the review. Paddington is love and this love is the heart of what makes this character and his movies so special. Whishaw truly channels the spirit and temperament of this truly lovable character whose credo simply comes from common courtesy. Much like the badass gentlemen of the Kingsman stories, Paddington’s philosophy is, “manners maketh bear.”
That belief system of respect towards one’s fellows is one that humanity often forgets. Paddington’s undying belief in his credo not only makes him an amazing character, but also a shining example of what humanity can be if we simple strive for it. In Paddington’s world, everyone’s lives improve when they learn from his example. These movies definitely beg the question, why can’t the real world learn what this humble, courteous animal believes in his heart? Learn it. Know it. Live it.