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Friday, January 12, 2018

Paddington 2

2015's Paddington movie was the rare instance of Hollywood taking a beloved children's character, and paying it with the utmost respect.  It was sweet and old fashioned, yet still felt relevant without having to resort to gross out gags and out of place adult humor.  And thanks to its quaintly beautiful storybook visuals, which often brought to mind the work of Wes Anderson, it was a beautiful film to boot.  Three years later, Paddington 2 has arrived, and none of the charm and warmth has been lost.  This is a smart and frequently funny film headlined by a game cast.  And yes, that includes the CG bear at the center of it all.

It's been some time since the events of the last film, and the little bear Paddington (once again wonderfully voiced by Ben Whishaw) has settled into his life in London, and has found himself at home not just with his human family, the Browns, but also with his many neighbors, who all regard Paddington with the utmost respect.  Speaking of the Browns, they are each having their own individual challenges, which Paddington seeks to help them out with whenever possible.  Father Henry (Hugh Bonneville) is going through a mid-life crisis after he was passed over for a promotion at work, mother Mary (Sally Hawkins) craves adventure after working on illustrations for children's adventure stories, teenage daughter Judy (Madeline Harris) has started up her own newspaper after finding an old printing press, and son Jonathan (Samuel Joslin) is going through a bit of an identity crisis as he tries to fit in at his new school.  Fortunately, now only do the Browns have Paddington to keep things in order, but they still have their housekeeper Mrs. Bird (Julie Walters) to help out.

Back home in Paddington's homeland of Peru, his beloved Aunt Lucy (voice by Imelda Staunton) is nearing her 100th birthday, and the little bear is desperate to find the perfect gift to give her.  While exploring an antique shop run by the kindly Mr. Gruber (Jim Broadbent), he comes upon an intricate pop up book of London's landmarks that is seen by many as a rare collector's item.  Knowing that his Aunt would love to see where he is currently living, Paddington becomes determined to make the money to buy the book for her, and begins taking on various odd jobs around the neighborhood as a window washer.  Little does he realize, he's not the only one with his eye on the book, although for much more nefarious reasons.  It seems that the old book holds secrets in its illustrations that can lead to a location of a fabled treasure that once belonged to a wealthy circus performer.  A washed up West End theater actor named Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant, wonderfully hamming it up) sees this as his way out of doing dog food commercials, and back to respectable theater work.  He dons a disguise to steal the book, and when Paddington catches him in the act, the thief manages to escape, while the bear is found at the scene of the crime by the police and wrongly assumed guilty.  From that point on, the movie goes into two separate plots, as Paddington seeks to make the best out of being imprisoned by making friends with the other prisoners, while the Brown family tries to clear his name.

Paddington 2 manages to up the stakes and scope of the original film, while at the same time not sacrificing any of the charms that made it a success.  In some ways, this movie might be even more charming.  The cast is certainly delightful, with many acclaimed British actors giving this their all and delivering winning performances.  Hugh Grant, in particular, seems to be having the time in his life in his villain role, playing a character who is outwardly charming, but on the inside a bit of a cad, as well as a buffoon who is never quite as clever as he seems to think he is.  Another standout is Brendan Gleeson as "Knuckles", a prisoner whom Paddington befriends while in jail by introducing him to his favorite cuisine - marmalade sandwiches.  There are cute visual gags, such as when Paddington is put in charge of the prison laundry, and turns all the prisoners' garbs pink, as well as some clever puns and word play humor.  Returning director and co-writer Paul King has wisely not tried to shake things up too much, and instead plays on the strengths of the first movie, without repeating himself or making this out to be a complete retread.

Also like before, the movie is a wonder to look at.  King uses a lot of storybook-style visual tricks in certain scenes, and even relies on traditional hand-drawn and stop motion animation in certain moments, such as when Paddington is looking through the rare pop-up book for the first time, and visual effects bring the images to life.  There are some inventive set pieces to look out for, and just like before, he is able to make London appear charming and quaint, while not ignoring the more dangerous or adventurous elements of the city.  And of course, there is Paddington himself, who has been brought to life with some of the best CG effects out there.  He never once looks out of place with the human actors, and every piece of fur on his body right down to his expressive face have been realized masterfully.  The effects work is so good that his animated response to some of the more emotional climactic moments makes these scenes all the more effective.

Paddington 2 doesn't have the surprise of the original, but that's because we know what to expect, and the movie doesn't let us down in the slightest.  This is as warm, funny and as smart a children's film as you are likely to find in cinemas right now, and it's entertaining enough that adults can watch this on their own, as well they should.  Nobody could possibly be too old to enjoy filmmaking this clever.

1 comments

1 Comments:

  • I wrote 2 articles on RetroJunk using my name as my username. Let me know what you think of them if you read them.

    By Blogger Patrick Shields, at 1:58 PM  

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