Picking up where the last film left off, Paddington 2 sees the kindly and polite young Peruvian bear (voiced by Ben Whishaw) now settled in London with the Brown family, and he seems to fit in nicely with the local Windsor Gardens community.
In the hopes of finding the perfect gift for his Aunt Lucy (Imelda Staunton) on her 100th birthday, Paddington visits Mr Gruber’s antique store, where he comes across an old pop-up book of London. It’s perfect: if Aunt Lucy can’t come to London, he’ll bring London to her.
The problem is, Phoenix Buchanan (played by Hugh Grant) wants it, and the has-been actor will stop at nothing to get it.
Director Paul King (The Mighty Boosh) shows some truly worthy creative talent in depicting a very special relationship when, in the pop-up book scene, Paddington imagines what it might be like if Aunt Lucy visited. The streets and buildings and city folk become paper cut-outs, while the two bears are the only living, moving, in-colour things alive.
It’s so gorgeous that for a moment I hoped the entire film would be that way. But the mix of real actors (including Jim Broadbent, Julie Walters, Hugh Bonneville and Sally Hawkins) and a computer-animated bear works nicely.
And that’s the thing about Paddington 2: if you’re familiar with the character, you know you’re in for a rather nice experience. As with the original Paddington books and the previous Paddington film, this is a tasteful comedy, congenial and charming.
It’s the bear’s draw; “nice” is what Paddington does best. For instance, even though much of the film takes place in a prison, Paddington camps up the joint so that the inmates are cooking pastries and wearing pink and black striped uniforms. Tough guys become friends and even villains like a show tune.
There aren’t any cheap gags, nor is there belly laughter, but there are smiles – warm smiles, smiles that make you happy for the love of family.
Children of all ages will like this film and adults will be grateful for an odd spot of thoughtfulness and calm on the big screen.
Paddington 2 opens in cinemas from next week, with advance screenings this weekend (including at the Moonlight Cinema).
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