The start might be as clunky and chunky as our little hero, but the sequel to 2014’s somewhat surprise family hit, Paddington, resembles something of an improvement all round. And, considering the opening salvo that leans strictly towards kid friendly antics, it’s a shock and surprise that this ends up transcending the obvious demographic and works for all the family.
In fact, it’s a step up in every sense. Narratively speaking, it treads well traversed ground, with a nefarious villain lying at the heart of things to take away the heartfelt, sincere wishes of our podgy bear. This nasty character, in the form of Hugh Grant’s Phoenix Buchanan, steals a sought-after, expensive pop-up book that offers clues of a hidden treasure. Coincidentally, this pop-up book is wanted by Paddington for altogether different reasons; he wants to offer his Aunt Lucy a 100th birthday present that offers his absent aunt a glimpse of London, a city she’d always dreamed of visiting.
Despite taking out a number of odd jobs for the purposes of funding the book, the theft of it provides a case of mistaken identity and an extended stay in the clink. Once there, his unconventional manner brings about an unexpected series of relationships. The quest becomes to escape these constricting confines and retrieve the tome.
Chocked to the brim with a British ensemble that resembles a ‘who’s who’ of acting talent, this sequel is a rip-roaring crowd pleaser. The story wizzes by with both a spring in its step and a sense of dogged purpose. The hackneyed expression of a ‘feel good film’ is one to conjure groans and cynicism, and yet this fits the criterion of that aged statement. This is a work to garner a grin from ear to ear that might as well be pinned that way. Those who remain impervious to its charms should no doubt be checked for a beating pulse. Director Paul King was absolutely correct to step back into this universe and give it all another go. The fact that he has upended the general received wisdom that sequels are inferior to their antecedents is a wonderful tub of marmalade in the face of those who voiced concern.
Against many odds, this is a smashing sequel, and one where it is easy to say that audiences are guaranteed to grin after they bear it. And one more pun: this has all the bear necessities to make the whole enterprise fit together splendidly.