Featuring a pastel-colored prison bakery, a bear riding a stray dog like Napoleon Crossing the Alps, and a pop-up book leading to long lost treasure, Paddington 2 is pure childhood bliss in a 104-minute package.
Sixty years after author Michael Bond gifted the world with A Bear Called Paddington, the titular bear’s second feature film in four years saw release in the United States in early 2018. In this sequel, Paddington (Ben Whishaw), a talking bear who emigrated from Peru to find a home in London, has settled in with his adopted English family, the Browns. Mother Mary (Sally Hawkins), father Henry (Hugh Bonneville), daughter Judy (Madeleine Harris), son Jonathan (Samuel Joslin), and live-in housekeeper Mrs. Bird (Julie Walters) have taken Paddington in as one of their one. Likewise, by offering small favors like playing matchmaker or helping members of the community to remember their keys, Paddington has made a name for himself in Windsor Gardens, the London suburb where the Browns live.
As Paddington begins to feel at home in his new country, he longs for his old one and those who he left behind to start a new life in London. With his Aunt Lucy’s 100th birthday on the horizon, Paddington decides to find a job so he can buy her the perfect present: a one-of-a-kind pop-up book of London—a city his aunt always dreamed of visiting—that he stumbled upon in an antique store. Paddington works in a barbershop, as a window washer, and several other odd jobs until he saves nearly enough money to buy the book when washed-up actor Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant) steals it and forces Paddington to take the fall for the crime. Paddington must attempt to clear his name, recover the book, and survive in prison with a little help from those who love him most.
It’s easy to understand why Paddington director and co-writer Paul King returned to the series to direct and co-write the sequel (with Simon Farnaby). King, Farnaby, and Hamish McColl (co-writer of the original film) must adore the marmalade-obsessed bear, as these movies are lovingly crafted. The cast members seem to enjoy themselves, too. Hawkins shines as the family’s kindhearted and eccentric artist, Bonneville as the reluctant adventurer, and Grant, making his debut in the series, probably should’ve earned a Best Supporting Actor nod for his role as a charismatic prima donna. Whishaw deserves acknowledgment for his role as Paddington, too (no pun intended), as live-action animated bears don’t play themselves. I would be remiss not to mention Brendan Gleeson (recognizable to Harry Potter fans for his portrayal of Mad-Eye Moody) as Knuckles, the benevolent head chef (and head honcho) of the prison.
Paddington 2 may not employ every brilliant English actor, but it more than makes up for it in laughs. A children’s comedy was hands down the funniest movie of 2018. That, coupled with the cast, the Wes Anderson-esque visuals, and a lot of heart makes Paddington 2 every bit as delightful as its predecessor.