Paddington 2 Review: Bursting With Warmth, This Sequel Improves on the Original

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Where the first Paddington was a more simple origin story, the sequel, also written and directed by Paul King, feels like the ultimate celebration of this cuddly character, while also bringing his charm into some uncharted territory. That is to say Paddington 2 shouldn’t be as good as it is; let alone being a sequel to a modest child-aimed success, the story is simple and lacking originality, and the special effects to create the titular bear aren’t quite as impressive this time around. And yet, the film is a bright and clear ray of sunshine on these dark, dismal times.

Having gained local celebrity status between films, Paddington (once again sweetly voiced by Ben Whishaw) spreads joy and warmth to the folks of Windsor Terrace, lifting the spirits of just about everyone around him. This is the component of the character the first film had to spend so much time establishing, but for the sequel, Paddington bear just gets to be Paddington bear, and endless charm ensues. Searching for a gift for his Aunt Lucy (the voice of Imelda Staunton) on her hundredth birthday, the red-hatted bear finds an old pop-up book that shows all of London’s landmarks, as Aunt Lucy had always wanted to see the city. But Paddington speaks too forwardly of his gift to a devious washed-up actor (a scenery chewing Hugh Grant), and the pop-up book becomes the MacGuffin that could lead him to riches hidden from one of his ancestors. So he frames Paddington for stealing the book, and the bear is carted off to prison.

Paddington 2‘s most blissful sequences is a montage in the prison after he has successfully warmed the heart of the head chef, Nuckles McGintly (Brendan Gleeson), with marmalade no less, as well as others, and the prison gets a fresh decor and attitude. It’s charming, sweet, and proof that everywhere this bear goes he has a positive effect on those around him. And that’s really what this sequel wants to be about.

Of course, as the plot goes along, we head into some cliche execution of drama and stakes, something admittedly nearly impossible to fully pull off in a film with this tone. You know, at one point late in the film, that one character isn’t actually about to die, even though everything about how King builds the scene indicates otherwise. But Paddington 2 obviously isn’t that kind of film—nor should it be. Still, with no workaround to needless drama presented here, it is an inevitable shortcoming. That doesn’t rip any of the charm away from this film though, and it’ll still leave you with a warm, fuzzy feeling inside when it’s over. Sometimes, that’s more than enough. Grade: B+

By Matt Dougherty

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