Director: Paul King
Starring: Jim Broadbent, Brendan Gleeson, Sally Hawkins, Ben Whishaw (voice), Hugh Grant, Julie Walters
103mins | Adventure, Children, Comedy | PG
Vue Cinema Cardiff
I have a confession to make. It’s not that big a deal, but I think it’s something I ought to get off my chest before I talk about Paddington 2. You may wish to sit down though. Comfortable? Good. Here it is: I don’t actually like marmalade. It’s practically blasphemy, I know, but there it is. I just don’t like the taste.
Having sat through both the first and now the second Paddington films, I may be willing to try it again, however. Watching Paddington make it with Brendan Gleeson (“Knuckles McGinty”) was one of the most delicious food-preparation scenes in cinematic history. It may not be as mouth-watering as, say, anything in Pixar’s Ratatouille, but watching Gleeson and Paddington make the marmalade together was certainly enough to make me salivate.
I’ll revisit that scene momentarily. Paddington 2 starts off with a brief exploration of how Paddington came to be adopted by his Aunt Lucy (Imelda Staunton) and Uncle Pastuzo (Michael Gambon), leading the audience into the central plot: it is soon to be Aunt Lucy’s birthday and Paddington wishes to get her the perfect gift to repay her for how well she raised him. He finds one in a pop-up book of London’s biggest landmarks, including St Paul’s Cathedral and Tower Bridge. However, it is stolen by a disguised criminal before he can earn the money to purchase it. Framed as the thief, Paddington is sent to gaol, and shenanigans ensue that are by turns heart-warming and hilarious.
It is in prison that the aforementioned marmalade making takes place. Paddington takes exception to the gritty, lumpy gruel served as food, and against the advice of his fellow inmates, goes to talk to the chef, Gleeson’s Knuckles McGinty. With Gleeson channelling a seriously nasty hardened criminal, McGinty is ready to do Paddington serious harm for complaining about the gruel before a marmalade sandwich shoved into his mouth saves the day. McGinty adopts Paddington as his assistant, and reluctantly assists him with making marmalade for the inmates.
From there, the prison is transformed from a dour Victorian building, full of glowering criminals, into a place where tea and cakes are served daily, and every night the warden reads the inmates a bedtime story. This is nonsense, I hear you cry. How does a small bear convert hardened criminals into tea-taking, bedtime-story lovers? The answer, cynically, is that this is a family film and this sort of nonsense happens all the time in such films. More truthfully, as expressed by Paddington’s adoptive father Mr Brown (Hugh Bonneville), it is because Paddington seeks the best in everyone, and brings it out of them by dint of a sweet tooth, a kind heart, and no small amount of innocent naiveté that charms anyone he meets.
He even manages to charm the film’s antagonist, over-the-hill actor Phoenix Buchanan, played with panache and gusto by Hugh Grant. It is Phoenix that steals the book Paddington seeks, for reasons I will not spoil. But I hazard that in all his years as an actor, Grant never once imagined he would utter the immortal phrase “Mr & Mrs Botty-cheek” while maintaining a perfectly straight face. The howls of laughter from the children in the audience confirmed that this will be a line to go down in cinematic history.
Grant is enormous fun to watch as the fabulous Buchanan, his amusing lines told with Grant’s signature posh drawl turned up to 11, and he very nearly steals the show from Ben Whishaw’s Paddington. But, for all that the shenanigans are as thrilling as they are funny, it is ultimately Paddington’s film. Whishaw’s face may never be seen, but in conjunction with the fantastic visual effects that bring Paddington to life in incredible realism, he makes the audience care for Paddington. In the hands of a lesser actor, Paddington’s naiveté would be grating, his fish-out-of-water charm merely awkward. But Whishaw’s performance ensures Paddington, and his quest to find the book for his Aunt Lucy, tug firmly on the heartstrings. It is no small thing to say I nearly cried at the end – but you will need to watch the film yourself to find out why.
One gripe, however. The film is a tad overstuffed with characters, at the expense of some of the others. You could, very cruelly, say therefore that the other main performances are somewhat phoned in. You might be right. Not a lot of effort is needed on the part of Hugh Bonneville to bring Mr Brown to life – nor does Julie Walters need to put in a great deal of work as Mrs Bird. In their cameos, the comedic talents of Sanjeev Bhaskar, Meera Syal, Ben Miller, and Richard Ayoade (amongst countless others) are a tad wasted. Amusing as their scenes may have been, their talents are not put to full use here, which is a shame given the number of big-name British stars in the film.
But this ultimately matters little. The amount of effort put in, small or large, still pays off: the film is full to the brim of heart-warming little moments, even amongst the cameos, so although their parts may have been small, the aforementioned stars still make them as impressive as possible.
With brilliant performances from the principal leads, incredible visual effects, an almost tear-jerking emotional story, and a roster of incredible talent, Paddington 2 is a film that bears watching over and over again.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to try some marmalade.
Thank you to Vue Cinema Cardiff for providing review tickets for this movie. If you want to review something for us, join TheSprout Editorial Group on Facebook. Check www.myvue.com for upcoming releases.
All images: Facebook.com/PaddingtonBear
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