Bear faced brilliance.


I never went to see “Paddington 2” at the cinema when it came out. Well, it’s a kids film isn’t it?  And my grandkids I thought… well, their probably a bit too young for the long haul on this one.  But – after catching up with it recently on a transatlantic flight – I’m sorry I missed it. For it is brilliant in its own way. 

Having not seen the first “Paddington”, also directed by Paul King, there is a useful little flashback to the Peruvian origins of the little chap before we pitch into the plot proper. Paddington (voiced by Ben Wishaw, “Spectre“) has nicely settled down to life with The Brown’s in their London home and is a well-loved member of the community (well, well loved that is by everyone except the cranky Mr Curry (Peter Capaldi, “Dr Who“, “World War Z“).  But he longs to buy his Aunt Lucy (Imelda Staunton, “Finding Your Feet“) a special birthday present – a pop-up book of London scenes that he’s seen in a local antique shop. But for that he needs a lot of cash, and so proceeds to earn it through a variety of different jobs. 

Bucket, ladder: what could possibly go wrong? (Source: Heyday Films)

However, fading actor Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant, “Florence Foster Jenkins“, “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.“) also shows an unhealty interest in the book and, after it disappears from the shop with Paddington’s paw prints all over the scene, the poor bear finds himself on the wrong side of the law.

A pop-up book with a hidden secret. Source: Heyday Films

This is a continually inventive movie, which rockets along with truly impressive verve and panache from scene to scene. As a particular example of this, an animated walk through the pop-up book is marvellously done: a tribute to the 2D retro nature (even in those days!) of the TV animation of the 70’s that will go over the heads of younger viewers. There are plenty of slapstick scenes – notably of Paddington trying window cleaning, and his job in a barber’s shop – which will not only delight younger children but also made this 57 year old laugh out loud too!  The prison sequence also delights, with a laundry blunder by the bear leading into a comical showdown with the prison’s chief poisoner, sorry, head chef played by Brendan Gleeson (“Alone in Berlin“, “Live By Night“).

Vision AND sound! Paddington with incarcerated friends, including Brendan Gleeson (centre).

The cast all seem to revel in their parts, with Hugh Bonneville (“Viceroy’s House“, “The Monuments Men“) energetic as Mr Brown and Oscar runner-up (surely!) Sally Hawkins (“The Shape of Water“) very chirpy as Mrs Brown. All of the residents of Windsor Gardens are a who’s who of UK film and TV, and each cameo has a lovely little tale behind it:  Julie Walters (“Brooklyn“) as Mrs Bird, the Brown’s help; Sanjeev Bhaskar as Dr Jafri, forever nearly locking himself out; Miss Kitts (Jessica Hynes) and the crusty Colonel Lancaster (Ben Miller) in a ‘will they/won’t they’ potential romance. Elsewhere, Jim Broadbent (“Bridget Jones Baby“, “Eddie the Eagle“) is great as the antique store owner; Tom Conti adds both gravitas and humour as Judge Biggleswade and Richard Ayoade (“The Double“) is very funny as a forensic expert.

The Brown family: from left; Mr Brown (Hugh Bonneville); Jonathan (Samuel Joslin); Mrs Brown (Sally Hawkins); Mrs Bird (Julie Walters); and Judy Brown (Madeleine Harris).

Head and shoulders above all of them though is Hugh Grant who is just outstandingly good as the puffed-up and self-important ham-actor. His Best Supporting Actor nomination for a BAFTA was surprising, but having seen the film so very much deserved. Hang around in the end credits for his last words of the film which are cornily hilarious!  One can only hope that Phoenix Buchanen returns for Paddington 3.

A career best… Hugh Grant as the devilishly slippery Phoenix Buchanan.

I would have thought that some of the scenes towards the end of the film, particularly one where Paddington seems doomed to a watery end, might be a little frightening for younger viewers. Thank heavens Sally Hawkins has gills! 🙂

Overall, this is a movie I would gladly watch again, with or without kids. In a movie landscape that is pretty devoid of good comedy, here is a movie that really did make me laugh out loud.

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