Paddington 2

 

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The good-intentioned bear returns for an adventure that sees him accused of theft in a 

stylish, whizz-bang confection distinguished by seamless CGI and lashings of incidental 

humour.

 

Paddington 2

  

The world is not exactly short of child-friendly bears. Only last September we were treated to Goodbye Christopher Robin, the story of the creation of Winnie-the-Pooh. Then there’s also Rupert Bear, Yogi Bear, Fozzie Bear, Sooty, all the Care Bears, Enid Blyton’s Tessie Bear and Baloo from The Jungle Book. Paddington, the good-natured but dim-witted bear from darkest Peru, is not to everybody’s taste. While beloved by some millions, Paddington is considered by others to be wet, on the twee side and a marmalade sandwich short of a picnic. Nonetheless, in Britain Paddington became the highest grossing film of 2014 and gambolled off with $268 million worldwide. So, predictably, we have the imaginatively labelled Paddington 2.

 

Here, Paddington is no less exasperating and some of his antics should not be encouraged at home, not least his practice of sticking electric toothbrushes into his ears. He then gets it into his head to purchase a present for his Aunt Lucy back in Peru. But what to get? So he pops into Gruber's antique shop and espies an antique children’s pop-up book of London. Here the film whisks Paddington into the very pages of the book where, accompanied by Aunt Lucy, the photo-realistic bear mingles with cartoon cut-outs of pedestrians and the city’s landmarks. One suddenly senses an artistic boldness is at hand. Paddington, like us, is enraptured by the book, but on discovering that it is a collector’s item he nonetheless resolves to find the £1000 it will cost him to buy it.

 

Paddington goes to work. His first gig is in a barbershop where he sets about trimming the horsehair brushes, defacing the mop of a venerable customer (Tom Conti) and generally wreaking havoc. For those who treasure such oldy-worldy establishments, Paddington’s pillage is anything but funny. Then, as the bear takes on a job cleaning windows, the film lurches into gear with the theft of the pop-up book and Paddington’s subsequent arrest.

 

In his favour, Paddington is a bear who always looks for the good in people and usually finds it. Here, he’s not only faced with Peter Capaldi’s misanthropic neighbour – a true ursiphobe – but London’s criminal underworld. However, our positive protagonist is anything but judgemental and approaches each miscreant as an equal. It is here that the film truly comes into its own. Not only have the scriptwriters Paul King and Simon Farnaby fashioned an ingenious narrative but they have allowed room for lashings of incidental humour. In fact, barely a scene goes by without an inspired comic flourish, a laugh-out line or a visual gem. There are jokes for the grown-up and plenty of slapstick for the younger brain, although the physical comedy is never gratuitous – this is clever stuff. So, in one scene in which Paddington is engulfed by an avalanche of oranges, a long-suffering Brendan Gleeson (as Nuckles McGinty – sic) looks up from his newspaper – but you’ll have to be quick to catch the headline ‘Dry Cleaner Accused of Money Laundering’. There are gags at the expense of The Great British Bake-Off, tantric yoga and the acting profession itself (Julie Walters: “Actors are some of the most evil, devious people on the planet”). Hugh Grant enjoys himself enormously as a washed-up luvvy who’ll do anything to finance his own one-man show – and gives us a range of accents – while Gleeson, Hugh Bonneville, Joanna Lumley and the aforementioned Tom Conti are all top-hole.

 

The film itself is beautifully directed by Paul King, whose collaborators step up to the mark with distinction. It’s a hard thing to manufacture charm, but the filmmakers have achieved this, creating a London for tourists to drool over, in which red telephone boxes and antique shops stand tall alongside The Shard. And, following the slapdash editing of Murder on the Orient Express, it’s a joy to see something so elegantly put together.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Brendan Gleeson, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent, Peter Capaldi, Hugh Grant, Madeleine Harris, Samuel Joslin, Joanna Lumley, Tom Conti, Ben Miller, Jessica Hynes, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Meera Syal, Noah Taylor, Tom Davis, Eileen Atkins, Simon Farnaby, Deepak Anand, Richard Ayoade, Robbie Gee, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, Enzo Squillino Jr, Maggie Steed, and the voices of Ben Whishaw (as Paddington), Michael Gambon, Imelda Staunton.

 

Dir Paul King, Pro David Heyman, Screenplay Paul King and Simon Farnaby, Ph Erik Wilson, Pro Des Gary Williamson, Ed Mark Everson and Jonathan Amos, Music Dario Marianelli, Costumes Timothy Everest.

 

Heyday Films/StudioCanal-StudioCanal.

103 mins. UK/France. 2017. Rel: 10 November 2017. Cert. PG.