“Paddington 2” is so genuinely cute, sincere, and charming that it is virtually impossible for me to say anything negative about it. This may sound like a complaint to you, but, folks, I am not complaining at all, and I am ready to tell you a lot about how much the movie amused and charmed me from the beginning to the end.
First, let me tell you a bit about what happened in the previous film. In “Paddington” (2014), our young bear hero Paddington, voiced by Ben Whishaw, came to London after leaving his jungle home in Darkest Peru, and he soon found himself staying in a nice cozy house belonging to Henry Brown (Hugh Bonneville) and his family. Although Henry was initially reluctant about letting Paddington into his house, he came to like and care about Paddington as much as his wife Mary (Sally Hawkins) and their children Judy (Madeleine Harris) and Jonathan (Samuel Joslin), and Paddington eventually became another member of their family.
“Paddington 2” begins its story not long after the ending of the previous film. While he is more accustomed to his new home and its neighbourhood than before, every day is always filled with new and interesting things for Paddington, and he is eager to write about them in his frequent letters to Aunt Lucy (voiced by Imelda Staunton), who took care of Paddington along with Uncle Pastuzo (voiced by Michael Gambon) for ‘many bear years’ before sending him to London and is now residing in a retirement home located somewhere in Darkest Peru.
Because Aunt Lucy is about to have her 100th birthday, Paddington wants to send her something very special, and then he comes across an old but lovely pop-up book when he visits a local antique shop run by Mr. Gruber (Jim Broadbent). As its each section is beautifully and spectacularly unfolded in front of his eyes and ours, Paddington becomes determined to buy this pop-up book for Aunt Lucy, but it turns out to be quite an expensive one, so he decides to work for earning enough money for buying it.
At first, he tries to work at a local barbershop, but that leads to a hilariously disastrous circumstance you have to see for yourself, so he comes to try a simpler job which, to our amusement, suits him better than expected. As he is diligently and happily working day by day, he is accompanied with the cheerful music performance by a street band, and we cannot help but smile while watching this jolly moment.
However, there comes a big trouble when a washed-up actor named Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant) comes into the picture. Because he knows that the pop-up book is actually far more valuable than it seems, Buchanan is willing to get it by any means necessary, so he breaks into Gruber’s shop at one night and then steals the pop-up book, and it looks like he can get away with his crime as he frames it on Paddington, who happens to witness Buchanan in disguise on the spot but then comes to be arrested by the police instead.
Despite the protest from the Browns and many of his good neighbours, Paddington is swiftly sent to the court and then sentenced to 10-year incarceration. Drenched in dreary Victorian style, the prison where he is incarcerated is not exactly a nice place, and he is not so popular among fellow prisoners due to his funny mishap in the prison laundry, but he maintains his gentle, courteous attitude as usual – even when he comes to confront Knuckles McGinty (Brendan Gleeson), the prison cook who is also the most fearsome dude in the prison. While it is not much of a spoiler to tell you that Paddington eventually comes to melt the tough heart of not only McGinty but also other prisoners, the movie bounces from one humorous from another as exuberantly wielding its colorful style and mood reminiscent of Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel” (2014), and we accordingly get plenty of laughs from that.
In the meantime, the Browns try to prove Paddington’s innocence, and that inevitably leads them to Buchanan, who is not deterred at all as gradually approaching to what he has wanted for years. In the end, everything in the story culminates to the climactic sequence unfolded on a train, and director/co-writer Paul King did a good job of balancing the sequence well between humor and excitement.
As the center of the movie, Ben Whishaw gives an endearing voice performance, and he is supported well by the other cast members including Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Madeleine Harris, Samuel Joslin, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent, Imelda Staunton, Michael Gambon, Brendan Gleeson, Joanna Lumley, Noah Taylor, Eileen Atkins, Tom Conti, Peter Capaldi, and Hugh Grant, who has a lot of fun here with his flamboyant villain character. Like Nicole Kidman in “Paddington”, Grant is willing to throw himself into silliness and wickedness, and he is absolutely hilarious whenever his character goes into his theatrical mode – and that happens quite often in the movie, by the way.
In conclusion, “Paddington 2” is a successful sequel which is more entertaining than its previous film in many aspects. You can clearly see right from the beginning that it is a fantasy, but it is a sweet and entertaining one nonetheless, and it is also really touching as we see how Paddington’s genuine decency brings the goodness from many of characters around him. Although I was frequently amused by his naiveté, I came to cherish his good-heartedness a lot, and his story gently reminded me again of why we should be more generous and compassionate to each other these troublesome days. To be frank with you, my brain says that I should give the movie 3 stars because it is essentially a lightweight family film, but I also feel that it earns an extra half star for its bona fide sincerity, so I give it 3.5 stars as following its good lessons.