Grant is on top form as a cravat-wearing rogue who frames Paddington for steal in a follow-up that lives up to Michael Bonds evergreen original
This year’s Christmas treat has arrived early, and Paddington Bear has incidentally shown us that Blade Runner isn’t the only movie around capable of giving us an exciting and impressive sequel.
This is the follow-up to the first Paddington movie of 2014 and it’s a tremendously sweet-natured, charming, unassuming and above all funny cinema with a tale that merely rattles along, powered by a nonstop succession of Grade-A gags conjured up by screenwriters Paul King( who also directs ), Simon Farnaby and Jon Croker. Their screenplay perfectly catches the tone of the great master himself, Michael Bond, writer of the original volumes, who sadly died in June this year at persons under the age of 91, creative and productive to the end.
The film is pitched with insouciant ease and a lightness of touch at both children and adults without any self-conscious transformations in irony or tone: it’s humor with the citrus tang of top-quality thick-cut marmalade. There’s a sight-gag involving the spurious transgres of a valuable vase that I especially enjoyed. And although one could say its work on diversity is not complete, the movie has a fair bit of material- now more pertinent than ever- about the route a confident, happy nation greets immigrants. The day-glo primary coloured design dedicates the movie a storybook feel, at some places a little like Wes Anderson. The uproarious finale meanwhile has something of Mel Brooks.
It may be bad form to begin with any character other than the young ursine hero himself, but Hugh Grant entirely pinches this, with an outrageously scene-stealing turn as the appalling villain. He is an ageing, cravat-wearing actor named Phoenix Buchanan with a moderate career behind him, brooding about the working day get a one-man thesp spectacular in London’s West End but now reduced to doing Clement Freud-style dog food TV ads. The ironically named Phoenix has just moved into this elegant west London neighbourhood, which is more or less as it was when Hugh Grant was here for Richard Curtis’s Notting Hill in 1999: picturesque, and plainly has still not been the conserve of the super-rich. In fact the movie has lots of quaint English things, like St Paul’s Cathedral, steam trains, and even- astonishingly- more than one fully functioning red public payphone, which characters use instead of mobiles.( These olden-days touches will do no harm to Paddington 2′ s opportunities in foreign marketplaces .)
Meanwhile, the Brown family are tootling amiably along as ever. Ben Whishaw is excellent voicing Paddington himself: curious, puzzled, innocent, but with a clear sense of right and incorrect. Hugh Bonneville is the paterfamilias Mr Brown, disillusioned at not being promoted at work , now experiencing a midlife crisis and experimenting with yoga and moisturiser. Sally Hawkins is quietly excellent in the unpromising role of Mrs Brown, and the same runs for Julie Walters as the housekeeper Mrs Bird, a job description that announces, like nothing else, that Paddington originated in an Ealing Comedy age. Sanjeev Bhaskar is a forgetful neighbour and Richard Ayoade is an eccentric forensic scientist.
The unspeakable Phoenix steals a precious pop-up volume from Mr Gruber’s shop: a volume which contains coded clues to where a fabulous cache of gem may be found- and he frames Paddington for the crime. So poor Paddington goes to prison for something he didn’t do, but there find consolation in relationship with the prison’s hot-tempered cook, Knuckles, played by Brendan Gleeson. Together, they are to plan a daring escape and the show-stopping climax involves a daring dash to the west country from London’s eponymous railway station. It’s very silly, but very likeable, the various kinds of thing that appears easy, but really isn’t.
It’s another impressive jaunt for Paddington. I incidentally is considered that these novelists need to cracking on with creating a feature-length adaptation of Michael Bond’s other, more neglected meisterwerk, The Herbs, with Russell Crowe as Parsley and Maggie Smith as Lady Rosemary.
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