A bear necessity
Michael Bond’s beloved bear from darkest Peru first took to the big screen three years ago – and his arrival was greeted with a mixture of delight and relief. Delight because it was just that, and relief because Paddington’s many fans had the jitters about how he would fare in a cinematic version. The sequel, Paddington 2, caused similar trepidation. Could director Paul King and his team repeat their triumph?
The short answer is yes. This is a sequel full of charm, humour, warmth and which is thoroughly faithful to the spirit of Michael Bond’s books and, more importantly, the good natured little bear himself. Worry no more because, based on this outing, the furry national treasure is in very safe hands.
There’s plenty that’s familiar about this return visit to the Browns and their less than conventional house guest. Most importantly of all, Ben Whishaw returns as the voice of Paddington, and the family is still headed up by Hugh Bonneville and Sally Hawkins, with crabby Mr Curry (Peter Capaldi) as their neighbour. The opening scenes are a gentle reminder of how Paddington eventually found his way to London, after being taken in by his Aunt Lucy and Uncle Pastuzo (the voices of Imelda Staunton and Michael Gambon) and then it’s straight into the new story.
And Paddington’s kind heart comes to the fore, as he’s trying to find a birthday present for Aunt Lucy. As she’s turning 100, it has to be something special and he finds just the thing at Mr Gruber’s (Jim Broadbent) antiques shop: a hand-made pop-up book of London. But the marmalade loving bear simply can’t afford it, so he takes on a series of odd jobs to earn the money. Meanwhile, somebody else wants to get their hands on it for other reasons, steals it and frames Paddington. So now he not only needs to get the book back, but he has to do it from behind bars.
Although Michael Bond is no longer with us, he must be smiling down at Paddington 2: in fact, it’s nigh-on impossible to watch the film without a permanent smile on your face. Paddington is still the same good natured, polite but terribly accident prone bear he ever was, never letting the opportunity for a good deed pass him by. It’s all feel good stuff and never, ever cloying or sentimental. This time round, Paul King has taken some inspiration from other, instantly recognisable movies. His touch is light, not giving us carbon copies but an affectionate nod in their direction. Adults, for instance, will recognise the inimitable style of Wes Anderson when Paddington is in prison: with its dolls’ house design and predominantly pink uniform, he could have been banged up in The Grand Portobello Prison. The film’s climax involves a couple of trains, rather like a full size version of the chase sequence in The Wrong Trousers, but without the nifty track laying. Paddington’s stay in prison recalls the same film, as do the pun-tastic headlines in the local paper, although this time they’re nothing to do with dogs.
New characters for this instalment include a pompous judge (Tom Conti) and, sending himself up with undisguised glee, Hugh Grant as Phoenix Buchanan, a has-been actor. Quite simply, he has a blast from start to finish. There’s some delicious cameos as well: Richard Ayoade as an expert witness at Paddington’s trial, Simon Farnsworth as a security guard with a penchant for nuns and Tom Davis (D J Dan from Prevenge) as a menacing prisoner who reveals a talent for making Italian desserts.
Paddington 2 hits the spot on just about every level: irresistibly funny, loveable and guaranteed to give you that fuzzy feeling, whatever your age. It’s an absolute treat – and can’t fail to be a winner.
Paddington 2 is released in cinemas on Friday, 10 November.