Paddington 2, 2017.
Directed by Paul King.
Starring Ben Whishaw, Sally Hawkins, Hugh Bonneville, Hugh Grant, Madeleine Harris, Samuel Joslin, Julie Walters, Imelda Staunton, Michael Gambon, Marie-France Alvarez, Jim Broadbent, Brendan Gleeson, Ben Miller, Jessica Hynes, Robbie Gee, Richard Ayoade, Sanjeev Bhaskar, and Peter Capaldi.
Paddington, now happily settled with the Brown family and a popular member of the local community, picks up a series of odd jobs to buy the perfect present for his Aunt Lucy’s 100th birthday, only for the gift to be stolen.
Paddington 2 sees the return of the friendly bear Paddington with much of the first film’s cast returning as the Brown family and their neighbours while Paul King takes the director’s chair once again. What results is a fun family film that works even as Paddington is separated from the Brown’s for much of the film, opening doors to new story beats but never losing sight of the film’s main focus on Paddington’s connection to his family.
Ben Whishaw’s vocal performance as Paddington is one of the best aspects of the film. He gives the bear a lot of personality and charm with just his voice, but also adds a nice amount of emotion into it as well. Whishaw makes it pretty easy to root for Paddington throughout the film, especially later as he’s framed for robbery and gets carted off to jail. The hijinks he gets himself into are entertaining and varied throughout the film. A beat with Paddington is never really repeated as the story continues, finding new problems and ways to solve them throughout the film.
The graphics on Paddington are, frankly, amazing, especially for a family film. He looks quite realistic throughout the film and the animators do a great job on his movements and facial expressions, whether he’s dripping wet with soapy water or looks too sad while in jail. One scene, however, is quite impressive as he plays around with a powerful electric shaver that causes him to vibrate at a tremendous rate, creating a shockwave of ripples throughout his hairy fur. It’s some really stellar animation on a fully CG character.
The returning cast does a solid job in their roles as the Brown family. Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Madeleine Harris and Samuel Joslin each show how their characters have evolved between films, especially for Harris and Joslin as the Brown children embrace their teenage years. Meanwhile Bonneville does a nice job of portraying Mr. Brown in something of a mid-life crisis as he’s unsure of what his next step while Sally Hawkins shines in the role of Mrs. Brown and is one of the central supporting characters to help clear Paddington’s name.
As the newcomer to the cast, Hugh Grant makes for a surprisingly great and fun addition as the film’s antagonist, the washed out actor Phoenix Buchanan who sets out to reclaim a lost family fortune. Grant goes through a variety of roles of Buchanan dons several disguises and shows how eccentric he is behind closed doors. One scene in particular sees Grant doing the voices of several identities from Buchanan’s career and Grant switches back and forth between these varying over-the-top characters with ease. He makes for a pretty fun bad guy.
Others in the supporting cast, such as Jim Broadbent and Peter Capaldi, do well with their shorts roles, but the real standout is Brendan Gleeson as the terrifying prison inmate Knuckles. His performance is one the best in the film as he finds a great balance between the typical grouchy prison cook and lightens up as Paddington’s new friend. Gleeson is no stranger to tough guy roles, but he excels in making Knuckles a likeable character from his very first scene and isn’t wasted as the film goes on.
It’s a bit of a risk for the film to split Paddington and the Browns up for so long, but it succeeds thanks to the introduction of the new characters and fresh surroundings. It also allows the film so explore the theme of family a little deeper, but also takes the opportunity to examine a couple other themes as well. There’s an undercurrent of xenophobia and isolation in this film, particularly from Capaldi’s neighbourhood watchmen and how Paddington, who is an ‘other’ and ‘undesirable’, should be watched at all times. It’s not a very subtle message, but Paddington 2 does a good job examining it for a family film and surmises that at the end of the day, differences bring people together and we have much more in common than we realize.
The special features on the Blu-ray are fairly limited. ‘Paddington: The Bear Truth’ has the cast and crew discussing what it is that makes Paddington and the children books written by Michael Bond so special. It goes a little into how they made Paddington, but a full feature dedicated to the special effects would have been welcome. ‘The Browns and Paddington’ looks at his connection with the Brown family with the cast giving their insights into the relationships and how their characters have grown. ‘Knuckles’ is also a nice look into Gleeson’s character and how he got into the role.
There’s also audio commentary from director and co-writer Paul King which gives some insight into the filmmaking process. Unfortunately, that’s kind of where the features stop. ‘The Magical Mystery of Paddington’s Pop-Up Book’ takes a look at one of the most memorable scenes of the film where it transforms into an animated pop-up book, but not enough time is dedicated into how they made the sequence. There’s also a music video with Grant’s Phoenix Buchanan which is really just an extended performance of the final scene while ‘How to make a Marmalade Sandwich’ is literally what it sounds like. It would have been nice if the features delved a bit more into how they made Paddington look so real or accomplished some of the other set pieces in the film, such as the pop-up scene or the climactic train chase.
While the special features are lacking, Paddington 2‘s Blu-ray is still a worthy film that both kids and adults should enjoy. The film doesn’t dumb itself down, instead offering some nice examinations, if also unsubtle ones, on family and community while the cast all round gives some nice performances. Whishaw, Grant and Gleeson are the clear standouts and the film succeeds in delivering a fresh tale for old and new viewers alike.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★