Kernel Rating (out of 5): (5 out of 5)
MPAA Rating: PG Length: 103 minutes
Age Appropriate For: 7+. The film is a sequel to the 2015 film, which was itself an adaptation of the books about Paddington bear. Similar content here as the first film: some gross-out bathroom humor involving ear wax and a bear who loves to lick marmalade, even off other people’s skin; a prison subplot suggests violence in the form of hand-to-hand fighting; there is some very light bullying in said prison subplot; some criminal activity involving a thief; and a man dresses as a female nun for said criminal purposes. Also the mention of a teenage romance falling apart and another teen dressing and acting differently to fit in with the cool kids at school.
How rare that a sequel improves upon its original, and rarer still is a perfect film. But ‘Paddington 2’ is both, encouraging gentleness, politeness, and decency in ways that are often funny and overall quite charming.
By Roxana Hadadi
The first “Paddington” film, released in 2015, was somewhat of a surprise. A live-action adaptation of the beloved children’s character, updated with CGI and plopped in modern-day London? Who could have guessed it would be so wonderful, with so much humor and so much affection for its titular bear? And yet three years later, its sequel, “Paddington 2,” is even better, a flawless delight that is even more visually stunning, even more kind, and even more compassionate. It is lovely.
In Paddington’s world, everyone can be a better person if they just try a little harder to be nicer to their relatives, their neighbors, their friends, and even strangers. And in the years since the events of “Paddington,” the bear (voiced by Ben Whishaw) has settled in nicely with the Brown family in Windsor Gardens, London. He catches a ride with a woman riding her bike to work, bringing her a marmalade sandwich for breakfast, and with the local waste collector, helping him study the maps of the neighborhood so one day he can take the qualification test and become a driver. He’s friendly with the woman who runs the newspaper and magazine kiosk, and he’s maintained a close relationship with antiques dealer Mr. Gruber (Jim Broadbent). To most people, the polite young bear with the red hat and blue raincoat is a friend.
But things take a turn when Paddington, who has taken up a series of odd jobs to save money so he can purchase a rare pop-up book of London landmark for his Aunt Lucy’s 100th birthday, is framed for the theft of the book. No one but the Brown family believes his story that the thief disappeared in a puff of smoke, and in fact, new neighbor and once-popular actor Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant) testifies that he didn’t see Paddington chasing anyone at all.
Facing down a 10-year prison stint, Paddington isn’t sure what to do. How will he get the book back? How will he ever demonstrate to Aunt Lucy how much he appreciates everything she’s done for him? And on the outside, the Browns become consumed with finding the man who Paddington was chasing. Didn’t anyone in the neighborhood see anything? Will they all forget their friendships with Paddington so quickly?
A lot of children’s movies focus on the importance of being a good team player (“Cars 3”) and standing up for yourself (“Ferdinand”) and honoring your family traditions (“Coco”), but the beauty of the “Paddington” films is their simplicity: that every person deserves to be treated with decency and kindness. It doesn’t matter what you look like, how old you are, what you do: As Paddington quotes Aunt Lucy, “If we’re kind and polite, the world will be right.” It’s a beautifully succinct reminder of common decency, and the film follows that credo in excellently unexpected ways, offering Paddington the opportunity to make new friends in prison and allowing the Brown family to turn into advocates for their beloved bear. “Paddington 2” proves that stories don’t need to be needlessly complex to be profoundly meaningful, for children and adults alike.
Aside from its inherent gentleness, the film has several gorgeous visual sequences, including one where Paddington imagines, using the animated pop-up book, that Aunt Lucy has arrived in London, and together they cavort through the pop-up book’s landmarks, feeding pigeons, visiting Big Ben, and hopping on a double-decker red bus. The contrast between the CGI Paddington and Aunt Lucy with the sketchbook style colored pencil of the pop-up book is enthralling. And as always, the performances are great too, particularly Sally Hawkins as the Brown matriarch and new cast members Grant, who is simultaneously vain and threatening, and Brendan Gleeson as hardened prison cook Nuckles McGinty, who takes one bite of Paddington’s marmalade and is transformed.
“Paddington 2” is the first perfect movie of the year, one centered by Whishaw’s emotive vocal performance and enlivened by colorful, fanciful sequences with prison bakeries, homemade hot-air balloons, and a steam-train chase. It is a must-see for children, adults, families, and anyone who would take Aunt Lucy’s words of wisdom to heart.
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