Movie Review: Paddington 2.
Paddington Bear returns in a second movie that is charming, funny and full of heart.
As much as I was anticipating Proud Mary, this week had beat the urge to watch a violent action film right out of me. Nate agreed to go check it out instead, and I decided to sit in on Paddington 2. I got the better of the deal by a long shot.
Paddington, the creation of author Michael Bond, has been delighting children since 1958 in hundreds of books and dozens of languages. The Peruvian bear in a red cap and blue duffle coat is unfailingly polite yet always seems to find his way into a jam…usually because of orange marmalade. The movie captures his earnest adventures without being smarmy or treacly, delivering a family-friendly film with mirth and heart…and orange marmalade. Always orange marmalade.
Paddington 2 (2018)
On the eve of her 100th birthday, Paddington desperately wants to find a perfect present for his Aunt Lucy, the bear who rescued him as a cub and eventually helped him to get to London. Since Lucy always wanted to go to London herself, Paddington sets his sight on an ornate picture book of the city that has appeared in his friend’s antique shop. The book is very rare, so Paddington has to take various odd jobs to afford it. Unfortunately, the book is also a secret treasure map belonging to a famed circus performer, and other nefarious forces want the book as well.
Director Paul King gives Paddington a unique style that is appealing without being overly cute. Paddington himself looks very much like his real life counterpart, the Peruvian Spectacled Bear, complete with scruffy fur, lanky paws, and a long snout and tongue. The faux realism makes the piece feel like vintage European artwork, especially when it is blended with several mixed-media sequences that imitate charcoal drawings, old pop-up books, and oil paintings.
At one point Paddington fantasizes about actually being in the picture book and the film creates a visually striking pop-up scene where everyone but Paddington and Lucy are cut-outs. Likewise, the circus setting feels like a throw-back to old times, and there several gorgeous sequences that feel like they were pulled straight from Wes Anderson’s films, such as The Grand Budapest Hotel. Everything comes together visually to make a memorable tableau that isn’t mawkish or cutesy.
Quite the Characters.
I figured the characters in this drama would be stock creations, but the cast gives everyone a solid grounding. Mr. Brown is a dopey dad going through a mid-life crisis and Mrs. Brown is a self-made gal, but they don’t come away as pat characters. Hugh Grant plays a rather restrained ego-maniacal villain…and I’d actually would have appreciated him mugging for the camera a tad more. Brendan Gleeson plays the prison chef who helps out Paddington, and he’s nicely vulnerable while playing a big, gruff bear of a man named Knuckles. Overall, everyone is restrained and down-to-earth, letting the plot and events provide most of the chuckles.
Ben Wishaw is perfect as Paddington, in the way that once you hear him speak you can’t imagine another voice coming out of our bear’s mouth. He’s the right blend of polite and clever, dropping some nice jokes under his breath when he feels nobody is listening. As terrific as Colin Firth is, I’m glad Wishaw got the job instead.
I really enjoyed my time with Paddington. The movie is well crafted from a technical and visual standpoint, and the plot moves along at just the right tempo to keep you entertained but not exhausted. Most of the character acting is solid, though I think the film was perhaps a touch too restrained in that category. I could have done with a bit more whimsy.
What Paddington doesn’t lack is heart, and several moments in the film are genuinely moving. The ending itself is emblematic of the whole experience. You get a nice, emotionally fulfilling finish that doesn’t stay one second longer than needed to satisfy you. If only more family-friendly movies had such tact and charm.