Christmas has well and truly come early this year with Paddington 2 a perfectly wrapped, sparkly gift that Santa has hand delivered on a velvet cushion with a glass of bubbly and a mini pyramid of Ferrero Rocher. In short it’s a sweet, warm and funny tonic to all the misery real life seems determined to heap on our weary shoulders.
In this follow-up to 2014’s Paddington, our duffle coat wearing hero is now a fully fledged member of the Brown family living in their impossibly cosy home in a fairytale version of London that we wish really existed. Everyone in the neighbourhood knows and loves the young bear (once again voiced with delectable innocence and brightness by Ben Whishaw) and so when he sets upon buying his beloved Aunt Lucy a gorgeous pop-up book for her 100th Birthday they don’t hesitate in supporting his plan to raise the funds by cleaning their windows. But when Paddington interrupts a thief in the process of stealing the book he is implicated in the crime and sent to jail. It’s up to the Brown’s to try and clear his name as Mrs Brown (Sally Hawkins) quickly becomes suspicious of actor Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant), recently moved into the neighbourhood and one of Mr Brown’s (Hugh Bonneville) clients.
Director Paul King genuinely seems to understand the late Michael Bond’s furry creation as much as his creator himself. He gets the tone just right, cute but not sickly sweet, slapstick but more pleasingly silly than poking fun at the expense of anyone, he’s hit the proverbial nail square on the head. Surreal, wondrous sequences sit comfortably side by side with the more straightforward moments, King has produced a true feast for families, where all ages are perfectly served by the action unfolding on screen. It’s hard to recall a gag that doesn’t hit home or a sweet moment that doesn’t melt the heart with praise also to be levelled in the direction of co-writers Jon Croker and Simon Farnaby (who makes a brief but amusing appearance).
Whilst the visuals, and in particular the effects of Paddington himself - so real his brown eyes glisten with emotion - are imaginatively realised it would be nothing were the humans anything less than as wonderful as their CGI co-star. It’s fortunate then that there’s not a single duff performance amongst the cast who all exude bags of charm. But it’s the villainous Buchanan who will raise the loudest titters as Hugh Grant reminds us all of what a tremendous comic actor he is. A vain, pompous, cravat loving has-been, Buchanan uses his theatrical training to inhabit a number of disguises as he seeks to evade the Brown’s and the law. Add a fabulous turn from Brendan Gleeson as the fearsome Knuckles McGinty and it’s a cast dreams are made of.
A pitch perfect sequel, Paddington 2 is the purest of delights, a box of confectionary with no rubbishy coffee creams or bitter chocolates.