(When the sequel begins, Buchanan is best known for a terribly cheesy commercial in which he wore a full-body animal costume and extolled the virtues of canned dog food.) Early in the film, the heroic and kind bear Paddington inadvertently alerts Buchanan to his recent discovery of a pop-up book that functions both as a secret treasure map and features heavily in Buchanan's ancestry. Check our movie review.
Paddington Brown (Ben Whishaw) wants to get the flawless birthday present for his Aunt Lucy (Imelda Staunton), and he thinks he's found it when he comes across a pop-up book featuring landmarks of London.
Pretty dark for a Paddington movie, sure, but King keeps it light and positive (this is perhaps the brightest and cleanest prison you've ever seen on screen). Unfortunately, a problematic situation arises with a narcissistic down on his luck fair entertainer (Hugh Grant) who robs the antique shop of the pop-up book, framing Paddington in the process. As you may know Paddington is a very polite bear who can get along with anyone. But the further adventures of the dear Peruvian bear, adopted by the Brown family of London, express an unusually generous worldview.
Led by dad Hugh Bonneville and mom Sally Hawkins, the Brown household is rounded out by daughter Judy (Madeleine Harris), an aspiring journalist, son Jonathan (Samuel Joslin), who fears his love of steam trains is not cool, and housekeeper Mrs. Bird (Julia Walters).
Paddington, now happily settled with the Brown family and a popular member of the local community, picks up a series of odd jobs to buy the ideal present for his Aunt Lucy's 100th birthday, only for the gift to be stolen. There he finds the ideal present. You'll still get that message with the adventurous zest, and colorful visuals that Paddington traded in.
Visually, every frame is like an intricate-scaled diorama, a work of art built up from thousands of tiny, thoughtful details that would enthral you over several viewings.
Grant does a breathtaking more-is-more performance here, creating an abysmal ham with haughty visions of grandiosity using his "acting" skills to don elaborate disguises. Thanks to a bit of bad timing, Paddington gets charged for the theft and winds up in prison. "I don't do nothing for nobody for nothing", Knuckles sneers, until he lets his guard down once the new inmate teaches him how to make - what else? -marmalade.
Paddington in prisonCourtesy of Warner Bros. King's success with the first Paddington movie naturally raised expectations for his followup, and the sequel not only clears that bar, it's an improvement in most every respect. Buchanan pinches the book for clues to a hidden fortune.
Phoenix knows something that Paddington doesn't, though. Paddington can be himself, an anthropomorphic bear everyone loves and indulges, because he's lifted by a brilliant cast. He is very amusing - a clear step up, both as acted and scripted, from the first "Paddington" movie's villain, the murderous taxidermist played by Nicole Kidman.
Grant, as well-known as he is, rarely appears in truly family-friendly fare. But those baddies do what they're supposed to do, which is allow Paddington's commitment to decency, thoughtfulness and impeccable manners win the day under any circumstances. Through some unfortunate situations, Paddington ends up in jail.
So what's new with Paddington 2? If you have nieces and nephews, take them. His many human friends recognize his difference yet accept his presence in their midst. Rather than just present another simply whimsical romp for Paddington and The Browns to amble their way through, we're instead given a film that challenges its audience with a story that encourages empathy, as well as extolls the virtues of being in a community.