Flashback Review: Paddington 2

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All other films are trash. Paddington Bear is king.

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It is my great pleasure to graduate from the realm of softball album reviews to the cut-throat arena of film critique. It is my even greater pleasure to be doing so by giving my thoughts on the sleeper hit Paddington 2. I genuinely, proudly tout this film as my favourite of 2018. Though that wasn’t the year that it came out, it was in 2018 that I first watched it with a friend – and the year where I would not stop talking about Paddington 2.

Full disclosure: I haven’t seen the first Paddington. I’m sure it’s fine, a little dark for the kids maybe (I think the rough premise is that Nicole Kidman is trying to murder and embalm Paddington Bear), but it has been the better part of two decades since I have read any of Michael Bond’s source material. Looked at in a vacuum, Paddington 2 is basically a perfect example of a fun feature that delivers solid jokes with a tight plot, clearly made with boundless passion and creativity. It has great performances from an all-star cast, in particular Ben Whishaw as the voice of the charming, hat-wearing, sandwich-eating Peruvian brown bear, and Brendan Gleeson as Paddington’s fellow prison inmate. It would be remiss, however, to not mention a couple of problematic accents from thespians Julie Walters and Jim Broadbent.

Paying lip service to the structure of an actual review, I’ll quickly sum up the plot. Paddington 2 is fairly straightforward considering it is a family-friendly caper, not The Third Man or something. Essentially, Paddington is on the hunt for the perfect present for his Aunt Lucy back in Peru (introduced in a flashback at the start, helpful for posers like me who aren’t fully up on the Paddington lore). The loveable bear finds an ideal gift at the antique store run by the local tat dealer, played by Broadbent, a pop-up picture book of famous London landmarks. Before he can purchase it using his bear dole, the book is stolen and Paddington is framed for the crime and jailed.

Curiously, Paddington is behind bars for the majority of the film while his surrogate family propel the plot, the Brown clan investigating the theft hoping that they can prove poor Paddington’s innocence. Sally Hawkins and the rest of the Browns traipse around London looking for the real thief, while Paddington teaches a prison full of violent offenders key virtues such as sharing, caring and respect for your fellow man (or bear).

Paddington 2 is a thoroughly well-rounded film with plenty of clever humour, a splash of romance, and even a dash of action right at the end in the form of a slick set-piece set on a steam train. The CGI and digital compositing remind you that Paddington is big-time now, deserving of its $40 million budget, but of course it is more than the sum of its individual parts. It may star a fake animal, but Paddington 2 has real heart and managed to really speak to me as both a movie lover and a human being. And yes, I cried at the end. Fight me.

Paddington 2 (2017), directed by Paul King, was distributed in the UK by StudioCanal, certificate PG. Watch the trailer below:

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