2014’s Paddington was a fun romp about someone who edged his way into invading an unassuming London family’s home, and he happened to be a bear. Paddington 2 sees the bear swiftly brought to justice. Peter Capaldi’s neighbor character saw it, the sinister side to this little encroaching bear, but no one believed him. He even says so, in his pajamas in the middle of the night with a high alert sign in the road.
Paddington 2 finds the abnormally charming bear looking for a birthday present for his Aunt Lucy back in Peru. He’s found the perfect one in the local antique shop: a wonderful pop-up book of London. He dreams of showing her the sights, the sounds, the wonders of London, and decides to get it… but it’ll cost a pretty penny. Paddington takes up window washing as a profession, leading to some classic slapstick humor that is never obvious and always fun—a delight, to use a word the kids are saying. On his way home, nearly ready for his purchase, he catches someone nicking his prized book and gives chase, only to end up suspected as the culprit and tossed into prison.
This set-up leads to one of the most interesting prison films of the year, where it faces stiff competition in Brawl in Cell Block 99 and Shot Caller. Those films didn’t have Brendan Gleeson as Knuckles McGinty, a hard and devastating fellow whom Paddington gets to know in his prison stay and the clear standout of the movie. They also didn’t have Hugh Grant in one of his most hammy roles (which is saying something, given Grant’s career), and where that hamming is an absolute joy and an asset. The film also has Hugh Bonneville and Sally Hawkins as the Browns, the skeptic and the inquisitive, an odd couple who give the movie a lot of life.
But it’s Paddington himself who is the massive draw of the film. He is far more realistic in his animation, far more emotive and present in his surroundings this go-around, as great as it worked in the first. His cheerful disposition and downright positivity lead to some great laughs, and his lightheartedness against awful circumstance makes his prison foray feel like a sleepover.
The script is tight and well-written, everything having its place and coming back around in its own way, and the most important thing is it never loses sight of its two goals: heart and fun. These are found in abundance in Paddington 2, leading to one of the sweetest and kindest films audiences should seek out as soon as they can.