The first Paddington movie in 2014 is already such a beloved classic that it’s hard to believe that this sequel actually tops it. Writer-director Paul King and his cast are back with their whimsical approach, combining silly comedy with surreally deranged touches that bring these people to life in ways that are both hilarious and deeply endearing. And this time, the plot feels more developed and the humour even funnier.
We catch up with Paddington (voiced by Ben Whishaw) as he’s now a fixture in his Notting Hill neighbourhood. With his Aunt Lucy’s 100th birthday approaching, he wants to give her the hand-made pop-up book of London landmarks he discovers in Gruber’s (Jim Broadbent) second-hand shop and starts working odd jobs to save up to buy it. What he doesn’t know is that a neighbour, washed-up actor Phoenix (Hugh Grant), knows that the book is a map to a hidden treasure. When Phoenix steals it and frames him, Paddington’s adoptive family (Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Madeleine Harris, Samuel Joslin and Julie Walters) launch a plan to clear his name.
As in the first movie, King fills every scene with delightful details, colourfully imaginative touches and witty gags that will make the film surprising every time we watch it. But none of this cleverness detracts from the characters, and all of them are superbly written and played to bring out their sparky personalities. Even the big action set-pieces are all intricately connected to the characters and plot, building to a climactic sequence that ties everything together in a way that’s exhilarating.
All of this is beautifully anchored, as before, by Whishaw’s mischievous, curious voice work and some seriously skilled animation that makes Paddington look utterly real. And while all of the actors are excellent, the show is stolen by Grant as a riotously hammy actor who thinks he’s a master of disguise. Every moment he’s on screen is laugh-inducing. And the other terrific new character is Brendan Gleeson’s prison cook Knuckles, a menacing brute who comes to life when Paddington literally brings colour to the jailblock by accidentally dying the inmates’ uniforms pink.
Basically, both cast and crew are having so much fun that the mood is infections. And King isn’t afraid to indulge in goofy antics or classic-style slapstick routines that are even funnier because they’re so inevitable. It’s also refreshingly designed with a timeless style that’s quirky and inventive rather than gimmicky-cool, undercutting the sentimentality with good-hearted sarcasm while making the important point that we need to take care of each other. So how long do we have to wait for another adventure?