- Product Rating -

Paddington 2

| January 17, 2018

I’m not too sure what it is about bears that exude wholesomeness, but whether they’re real and nameless, in a video game and named Banjo, or in a storybook and then in a surprisingly good live-action/CGI hybrid family film, they’re essentially the animal equivalent of a parental hug. With Paddington 2, that hug is transformed into feature film format, utterly warm but never scalding, a homemade loaf of bread fresh out of the oven yet cool enough to eat immediately. Here, the filmmakers understand and appreciate the audience, providing a steady stream of pratfalls and British humor that services children and adults of all ages. And despite how clichéd that endorsement may sound, Paddington 2 somehow isn’t—but it still is about 15 minutes too long.

After being settled in with the Brown family led by Henry (Hugh Bonneville) and Mary (Sally Hawkins), Paddington (voiced by Ben Whishaw), he decides to get the perfect gift for his biological Aunt Lucy’s (voiced by Imelda Staunton) one hundredth birthday. After settling on a pop-up book of London and working as a window cleaner to save money for it, it’s stolen by Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant), a narcissistic and washed-up actor who now does dog food commercials. After being framed for the crime, Paddington is sent to prison, leading his adoptive family to try and help him get out.

With a supporting cast including but not limited to Jessica Hynes, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent, and Joanna Lumley, the Britishness of the film is at once enchanting, with each aspect of it brimming with the flavor of a natural export from the region. Whereas most family film’s attempt to inject an ill-found sense of irony to salt up the experience for teens and adults, Paddington 2 plays its content refreshingly earnest, being as well intentioned as its titular character. Nevertheless, it fully avoids cloying sentimentality by lacing each scene with a balance of lightness and dramatic momentum so as to smooth out the tone and allow its parts to actually add up to a respectable sum.

This uniformity extends itself to the technical and directorial choices, with seamless animation blending Paddington himself to the environments and props with which he interacts. The direction from Paul King, who also directed the first film, hangs onto the original’s storybook-inspired visual style with its symmetrical framing and smooth camera trucks left and right, but it advances with the cinematography from Erik Wilson (Submarine, Paddington), sewing in camera movements that sweep and revolve around its subjects, which are also in some scenes quite hypnotic. The creativity on display demonstrates an admiration for the source material but also showcases a growth for those behind the camera, which is a growth worth acknowledging.

There are still some moments where the emotional core of the film skates a bit too close to sappiness, at which point the aforementioned earnestness starts to fade away a tad. The largest issue with Paddington 2 is its pacing, though, wherein a 103-minute film feels stretches out its climax to about twice as long as it should be. The gags become increasingly predictable and spirit of the film loses steam, both of which are issues shared with the original film, and the repeating of such can be a bit disappointing. Furthermore, the plot progression switches between feeling plainly contrived and endearingly cartoonish to diminishing returns. The rest of the film often times runs like clockwork, though, and is funnier and smarter than its predecessor. It’s a welcome if slightly unwieldy surprise, a ride in which kindness need not feel obligatory and the charm of a movie is not only emulated but also improved upon.

About the Author:

Hollywood Film Festival pre-screener and Best Social Media Presence for North Farmington High School's 2014 senior mock elections. Firmly believes that ".gif" is pronounced "jiff".
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