Released in 2014, the original Paddington film was a surprise smash with a timely message: in a big city, even an anthropomorphic bear from Peru can find a home and fit in. Once again co-written and directed by Paul King, who cut his teeth on The Mighty Boosh, this sequel offers a similar mix of visual gags that brings Michael Bond’s beloved bear gently into the 21st century.
The film begins with Paddington (voiced by Ben Whishaw) wondering what to buy his Aunt Lucy for her 100th birthday. During a visit to a local antiques shop, he spots a pop-up book showing the great London landmarks that his Peruvian relative has always wanted to see. Paddington starts a window-cleaning business so he can buy the book, but while he’s filling his savings jar, he’s framed for theft by washed-up luvvie Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant) who wants the book for himself. After a trial featuring an amusing cameo from Richard Ayoade as a useless expert witness, poor old Paddington is dispatched to prison.
Naturally, even the prison scenes are filled with warmth and well-meaning humour. Paddington gets off to a dodgy start when he accidentally ruins his jailmates’ clothes, but makes amends by sharing his marmalade recipe with the prison’s tough-nut cook Knuckles McGinty (Brendan Gleeson). While he’s behind bars bringing together a motley crew of crims, Mrs Brown (Sally Hawkins) and her family are trying to prove Paddington’s innocence by rallying locals played by British comedy favourites such as Sanjeev Bhaskar and Jessica Hynes.
Obviously Paddington 2 is a fantasy. It’s set in a London where everyone lives in a fancy Notting Hill townhouse and chats to each other on the street. But like its predecessor, this film never feels woolly: it’s filled with entertaining CGI set-pieces and has an admirable underlying message about the importance of community spirit. The result is another heartwarming and completely charming film with jokes that will tickle kids and adults alike. Bring on Paddington 3.