There's a reason why it's rated 100% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.
Ten years ago, could you ever have fathomed that a Paddington movie would (so far) be the best film of the entire year, let alone even good? Believe it, because that’s the world we’re currently living in.
The first Paddington movie was released in 2014 and became somewhat of a surprise hit. While it’s based on a series of children’s books, no one was really calling for a Paddington movie and the trailers certainly didn’t do a good job of selling the film.
However, much to all our surprise (and especially mine), Paddington was actually a charming delight. Think Mission: Impossible, only instead starring an adorable looking bear who just wants to eat some marmalade.
Now we’re getting a sequel — which we have Europe to thank for, as these movies do far better overseas than they do in the United States.
Paddington 2 takes place a good while after the first film took place. Paddington (voiced by Ben Whishaw) has adjusted to living with the Brown family, now that they’ve officially taken him in and claimed him.
All of the Brown family is up to their own antics — Mr. Brown (Hugh Bonneville) is gunning for a new promotion at work, Mrs. Brown (Sally Hawkins) has come up with some new insane plan to swim across the sea and the two kids are dealing with standard teenage issues.
Paddington, however, is on a quest of his own. He’s trying to afford a pop-up book than he can give to his Aunt Lucy for his 100th birthday. This isn’t just any run-of-the-mill pop-up book, mind you — it’s an incredibly rare one that costs a small fortune.
Despite not having enough money to afford it, Paddington knows it’s the perfect gift for Aunt Lucy. After all, Aunt Lucy gave up her dreams to move to London just to raise Paddington as a cub — giving her this book that illustrates the city is the least he can do. So, Paddington begins going door to door looking for work so that he can save up to buy it.
That’s when everything starts to go wrong. Seeing how this isn’t just any ordinary pop-up book, Paddington isn’t the only one after it. A past his prime actor named Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant) also wants to get his hands on it for his own reasons, and he doesn’t have quite the same moral code that Paddington has.
In fact, Buchanan decides to steal the book — which Paddington just happens to witness. Unlucky for Paddington, Buchanan also comes from a line of magicians and manages to disappear from the scene of the crime without being caught.
Which means Paddington is the one who ends up going down for the felony. After being tried in court, innocent little Paddington is sentenced to serve ten years in county prison. However, given that he’s so sweet and adaptable, Paddington quickly makes friends there and works on figuring out a way to clear his name.
The plot synopsis might not scream “incredible” when simply reading it, but make no mistake — Paddington 2 is a charming, splendid little film that’s even better than the first movie.
Seriously, Paul King (VII) is a director who deserves far more recognition in Hollywood than he’s currently getting. He directed both Paddington movies, and he’s the reason they work. His approach to the property is so light and fun, yet so competently directed — there’s a gorgeous looking scene early on in Paddington 2 in which the pop-up book comes to life that immediately informs you of just how good this movie is about to me.
Which seems crazy and insane to say. When hearing that Paddington is being made in a live-action format, most people’s minds immediately jump to the live-action Scooby-Doo or Smurfs movies. That’s not this, though. This is a movie with lovable characters, a heartwarming story and a lot of really fun sequences.
Really fun sequences that are allowed to embrace the ridiculousness of it all. Paddington 2 is not a story that’s grounded in reality. It’s about a talking bear, after all — a talking bear walking the streets of London like it’s nobodies business. King is self-aware of this fact and therefore treats the film as such. The action and prison-break scenes contain a high level of energy with a lot of zany moments, all of which nearly paid off.
This isn’t just a mindless film with some funny bear jokes, either. Paddington 2 has a strong and well-realized heart, both in the form of the Brown family and Aunt Lucy. I buy all the conflict between the Browns and Paddington. Paddington 2 isn’t a retread of the first movie where they suddenly don’t want him again; rather, they progress all of the relationships to the next level. This allows for deeper characters and a stronger connection between all of them — which is especially seen every time Sally Hawkins is on screen, who brings an extra level of high-energy fun to the whole film.
The film also wisely chooses to explore more of Paddington’s relationship with Aunt Lucy — which provided the real emotional crux of the film. From the opening scene alone, I knew that it was going to get to me. I was right. The movie ends at the perfect time, giving an emotional ending that’s likely going to wind up moving you (at least it should, if you have a heart).
The new characters brought on board to Paddington 2 also all really stand out. Brendan Gleeson plays one of the cooks in prison and, without spoiling anything, he ends up having a larger and larger role as the film goes on. Gleeson is a talented actor who approaches the role with a lot of fun and works great in the part.
Hugh Grant also stands out — partially because this is an incredibly self-aware role for him to play. Grant has admitted before that he feels he’s past the prime in his acting career, and this is a role that very much takes that idea and roles with it. His character is charming and funny, yet also evil nonetheless — and Grant sells every minute of it.
Every time I recommend the Paddington movies to someone it’s usually met with a ‘huh?’ or a ‘you must be joking.’ It’s not a joke. Yes, Paddington is a movie that looks like it’s aimed at kids and relies on slapstick humor. Those aspects are both still in the movie, sure. However, this is a film that parents are likely going to enjoy even more than the kids and with slapstick humor, that’s actually really funny and well directed.
Keep your Shawshank Redemption or Great Escape, Paddington 2 is the only prison break movie we need.
Watch the trailer for Paddington 2 below, and let us know what you thought of the movie in the comments below!
Bears have never been so adorable: 'Paddington 2' review10