At the first attempt of watching Paddington, I couldn’t quite surpass the wailing of sugar enthused children too young to appreciate cinema etiquette, so I couldn’t make it through the whole thing, although I had been enjoying what I was viewing. So after hearing such strong reviews for the sequel I was intrigued how good is Paddington 2. Director Paul King teams up with his Bunny and The Bull star, Simon Farnaby, to pen the script adapting everyone’s favourite furry immigrant created by the late Michael Bond.
Before a wandering orphan at Paddington station, Paddington Bear (Ben Wishaw) was a rescued cub by two bears, Uncle Pastuzo (Michael Gambon) and Aunt Lucy (Imelda Staunton), who postponed their plans to visit London to bring up the haphazard bear. Now as a member of the Brown family and adored member of the community of Winchester Gardens, Paddington wants to save up for a gift for his Aunt Lucy who has always wanted to come to London but cannot afford it. Instead, Paddington has found the perfect gift, a priceless pop-up-book of London he knows she will adore. But Paddington is not the only one who has his eyes set on it, his celebrity neighbour Pheonix Buchanan (Hugh Grant) whose acting career has gone to the dogs, knows of the book and it’s true value. Master of disguise, Pheonix steals the book, but is caught in the act by Paddington, who gives chase to the thespy thief, only to be accused and found guilty of the robbery. Sent to the pen, the innocent and naive bear looks ill equipped for a stint in prison, with his only armour good manners and a recipe for marmalade. Whilst Paddington must adapt to his new environment, the Browns try to clear his name, but Paddington fears he maybe forgotten and destined to spend his time behind bars.
The challenge for most children’s films is whether there’s enough subtlety and hidden depth for adults to enjoy, or the kidults and it has to be said that King and Farnaby have crafted a very cute and charming film that can be enjoyed by all. There’s some wonderful childish wit throughout and just to see a room full of Hugh Grant headshots is worthy reason if any to watch Paddington 2. But most impressive of all are the set designs, colour and central framing that really set the film as one with a strong directorial vision. Comparisons to Wes Anderson would not be unfair in the slightest and it is seldom that a British film with a British director have a style that is cinematic that can stand-along side Hollywood.
However, for all of it’s undeniable charm the script is a bit simplistic and whilst the plot moves along, there isn’t a great deal under the bonnet. With little character development or a sense of something really being put on the line. Whilst it’s target market is very much geared to the little tykes, you can’t help but think that a Pixar film would try to emotionally wrestle with it’s audience or to try and have an underlying message. And because so, you don’t really ever get sucked in like you would with some of the great kid films of the past. Whilst it is an adaptation and it’s setting set in stone, it is horrendously middle-class in tone and voice that can potentially irritate some but also it is another cliché that the American’s love to eat up. These minor irks aside, Paddington 2 is a perfect little film if you need something to give you a little bear hug to pick you up and feel warm inside, that should hopefully see director and writer Paul King giving something juicy to make across the pond.
Paddington 2 is available on Blu-Ray and DVD from the 12th of March