As warm and as joyous as a hug from your favorite teddy bear, “Paddington 2” is sewn together with fresh CGI-cotton and just the right fabric of familiarity. It’s a comfortable, infectiously fun movie-going ride, a family film that doesn’t condescend or coalesce. You might initially believe that “Paddington 2” is only worthy of an eye roll, but its a film you will regret not giving your full, furry attention.
Ben Whishaw voices Paddington, the lovable, earnest, often gullible but never foolish bear. Paddington lives in London with his adopted family the Browns, each of whom are well-crafted characters with their own personalities and interests. If you climb a bit further up on his family tree, you’ll meet Lucy, Paddington’s adoring aunt who taught him how to make savory marmalade sandwiches. And lurking next door to the Brown family is Phoenix Buchanan, a has-been actor who is willing to sink to new moral lows if it will catapult him to new heights of fame and fortune.
At first, these character details seem unimportant and forgettable. But as the story reveals itself, popping with intrigue and humor that is always unexpected but never unwelcome, everything comes together as a marvelous whole. “Paddington 2” doesn’t require any additional attention than say a Pixar or DreamWorks film, but this film’s storytelling rewards are dished out tri-fold.
Much of that is owed to Paul King’s masterful direction. The filmmaker works with a bright, vivid color palette that would make Wes Anderson blush, and evokes a childlike sense of wonder that would even make Steven Spielberg feel nostalgic. King frames every shot to look like a family painting Paddington and his family would proudly hang on their wall.
But more is owed to the cast. Sally Hawkins is great as Paddington’s adoptive mom Mary, and Brendan Gleeson channels warms our hearts with his brutal fists as Knuckles McGinty. But Whishaw is truly a gem as London’s favorite bear. Even though you never see Whishaw’s face, you feel the whole of his spirit in Paddington. I never saw the first “Paddington,” nor did I read the books by Michael Bond. But watching this movie was like catching up with a childhood friend I had never met, and one I can’t wait to see again.