Paddington the beloved Peruvian bear returns for more family-friendly fun in this appealingly all-star epic once more from co-writer and director Paul King, who has called on all his big-time mates to appear.
With Paddington a seamless feat of FX again, and talking in the voice of Ben Whishaw, this outing plays up the old-school charm of the character, adds a few more modern (and often improbable) plot tricks, and fills the canvas with so many familiar faces that even the smallest kids will recognise someone.
After a quick flashback opener with Paddington’s Uncle Pastuzo and Aunt Lucy voiced by Michael Gambon and Imelda Staunton again, we pick up with Paddington living happily with the Browns in a rather posh bit of London. He’s a popular member of the neighbourhood, with new residents played by Ben Miller, Jessica Hynes, Sanjeev Bhaskar and others, while subplots are introduced involving Henry Brown (Hugh Bonneville), wife Mary (Sally Hawkins), Mrs. Bird (Julie Walters), lovelorn-teen-daughter Judy (Madeleine Harris) and growing-up Jonathan (Samuel Joslin), who thinks himself too old for toy trains now.
Paddington is looking forward to a visit from Aunt Lucy, and when he finds an antique pop-up book in the shop run by nice Mr. Gruber (Jim Broadbent) we’re treated to a lovely sequence where he and Lucy go on a fantasy tourist jaunt around London. He decides to take up window-washing to earn the money to pay for it, and it’s hardly a spoiler that when he meets faded theatrical star Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant) at a funfair and tells him about the book, the old ham happily becomes the villain of the piece (in the absence of the first film’s Nicole Kidman).
If all those name players weren’t enough, Paddington also winds up going to prison, and after the courtroom scene (where the judge is Tom Conti, the Prosecution Meera Syal and Richard Ayoade’s an expert witness), he’s incarcerated and at the mercy of feared chef Knuckles McGinty, who’s naturally played by Brendan Gleeson obviously having a fun time in scary mode.
With the expected soft-heartedness, a few glorious gags, a nod to the Paddington TV series and especially funny turns by Gleeson and Grant, this is surely the best option for a Christmas movie for the whole family, and paves the way for Paddington 3: Marmalade With A Vengeance.
Rated PG. Paddington 2 is in cinemas now.