Paddington 2 – Film Review by David Minogue
Director: Paul King
Writers: Michael Bond (“Paddington Bear” created by), Jon Croker (additional material, Paul King & Simon Barnaby
Cinematography by Erik Wilson
Stars: Ben Whishaw, Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Hugh Grant, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent, Peter Capaldi, Brendan Gleeson, Joanna Lumley, Tom Conti
In 1956, Michael Bond wrote his book A Bear Called Paddington. It was published in 1958 and was the first of over twenty books written about the little bear that travels from deepest, darkest Peru to London. In the 1970s, Bond was the producer for the adaptation of his books to television and other series were made in the following decades. In 2014, elements of the book series were used when it was adapted for cinema by Paul King who also wrote the screenplay. It was produced by David Heyman who had previously adapted the Harry Potter books for the big screen. Paddington was a huge financial success grossing $268 million at the international box office and was also nominated for Best British Film and Best Adapted Screenplay awards at the BAFTAs. The computer animated Paddington was originally to be voiced by Colin Firth but he dropped out of the production and was replaced by Ben Whishaw who returns for this sequel. The first film established how Paddington was discovered in Paddington station by the Brown Family and came to live at their home in Windsor Gardens. Most of the actors from the first film return for the sequel including Hugh Bonneville as Henry Brown, Sally Hawkins as his wife Mary and Julie Walters as Mrs. Bird. At a morning family breakfast in an early scene of the film each of the Brown Family are cleverly given an individual character development detail that is used at later points within the storyline.
The basic plot of this new film is that Paddington wishes to send his Aunt Lucy (voiced by Imelda Staunton) a special present for her 100th birthday back in Peru. This present comes in the form of a pop-up book of landmarks of London which he discovers in Mr Grubers (Jim Broadbent) Antique shop. The book is very expensive and Paddington attempts a number of jobs in order to save up to buy it. This sets in motion the well-meaning haphazardness that defines Paddington as a character. The book goes missing and Paddington is blamed and then he and the Browns have to try to prove his innocence.
The entire film creates the kind of London that tourists long to see when they visit it for the first time. There is a wonderful scene where Paddington imagines himself and Aunt Lucy wandering around London within the pop-up book. Each of the landmarks in the book become part of the plot and they are all filmed or digitally recreated beautifully, especially in the use of overhead shots. The enclave of Windsor Gardens that the Browns and their neighbours live in is straight out of the Who Will buy? scene in Carol Reed’s 1968 screen musical of Oliver! There is a wonderful vibrancy throughout the film especially in the production design by Gary Williamson and the cinematography by Erik Wilson.
Not every sequel features most of the cast and the crew from the original film. Paddington 2 greatly benefits from the inclusion of each returning actor and crew personnel. It also features several new characters including Hugh Grant as Phoenix Buchanan who was once a famous actor who now makes a living from appearing in dog food commercials. His defining characteristic is his glorious vanity and it provides much of the humour throughout the film. His performance is essentially a great homage to the comedy actors of early British cinema and theatre. Grant is by far the best of the newer characters but just as good is Brendan Gleeson as a prison chef called Knuckles McGinty. Brendan Gleeson, Julie Walters and Jim Broadbent are stars who also appeared in various Harry Potter films. This film has a similar style and structural design that made those films great family cinema particularly in a sequence involving a steam train. It also features cameos from Tom Conti as a gruff judge and Joanna Lumley as a theatrical agent who even uses a line of dialogue from her Absolutely Fabulous character Patsy.
Even though Paddington 2 has no direct references to Christmas it feels like an ideal film for the winter months and will be a big success here in Ireland and especially in the UK. It doesn’t open in the U.S. until January. The film is dedicated to Michael Bond who passed away in June of this year. It is a great tribute to him and the wonderful character of Paddington that he created over 60 years ago.
Junior Reviewers Corner –
Here, we see some pictorial reviews of Paddington from our crack team of junior reviewers. It rated highly amongst them receiving one five star review and one 10 out of 10!