Paddington Brown, Britain’s favourite illegal immigrant, returns in this sequel, which finds the young bear framed for robbery as he looks for a present for his great-aunt Lucy’s hundredth birthday.
Based on Michael Bond’s timeless books, 2014’s Paddington received widespread critical praise and topped the yearly UK box office. A sequel was inevitable, but matching the quality of its predecessor would be no mean feat. Fortunately, Paddington 2 lives up to expectations and some. Returning director Paul King has crafted a family film that is sweet, warm and very funny, but also seamlessly preaches kindness, acceptance and even prison reform.
Developing the first film’s pro-immigration message, this sequel celebrates and revels in London’s diversity. Now an established member of the community, the Peruvian bear embraces the capital’s many different cultures and looks for the best in everybody he meets. As a result, Paddington is immensely popular and stands as an example of the benefits of immigration. On the other hand, the Browns’ narrow-minded neighbour, Mr Curry (Peter Capaldi), spends his days peddling fear about the dangers of accepting ‘others’ like Paddington. It is reassuring to see that these qualities make him Windsor Gardens’ least popular resident.
Despite Paddington 2’s culturally inclusive morals, it does ignore the capital’s inequality; as the entirety of its population are seemingly able to live in beautiful Georgian townhouses. Nonetheless, it is refreshing to see a family film which is willing to take a stance on such a pertinent issue as integration. The film’s optimistic and inclusive politics make it a perfect antidote to the insular intolerance that has been so prominent since last year’s European Union referendum.
King’s sequel also boasts a very impressive cast. Brendan Gleeson, a new addition to the series, is very entertaining as Knuckles McGinty, while Hugh Bonneville and Sally Hawkins are excellent once again as Mr and Mrs Brown. Bonneville thrives on the film’s slapstick comedy, which is very well executed and is never used for a cheap laugh. Ben Whishaw has the perfect voice for Paddington, which encapsulates the young bear’s unwavering good nature, complete lack of cynicism and childish innocence.
Paddington is the tolerant, liberal hero that Brexit Britain so sorely needs.
However, it is Hugh Grant who is the standout. He is superb as the villainous Phoenix Buchanan, an ageing actor whose best days are firmly in the past. He throws himself into the role and deserves kudos for embracing a character that is almost redolent of his own career trajectory. With this performance and last year’s Florence Foster Jenkins, the actor’s renaissance has been confirmed. After spending the last decade making substandard rom coms, such as 2007’s dreadful Music & Lyrics, he has finally been allowed to remind people just how talented he is.
Simply, Paddington 2 is an absolute delight. Exciting, sweet and very amusing, it ranks amongst the great family films, while its message of open-mindedness and kindness make it especially relevant. Paddington is the tolerant, liberal hero that Brexit Britain so sorely needs.