Paddington 2

Written by Jason Solomans

Real family films are rare beasts, as uncommon, perhaps, as finding a bear in a barber shop, or halfway up the Shard.

So, the delight of the new Paddington adventure is its seemingly effortless ability to charm across the spectrum – from the youngest to the oldest member of the audience. I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t love it, and if I could, I don’t think I’d want to know them, like that horrid Mr Curry in his hi-viz Neighbourhood Watch tabard (played with such detestable glee by Peter Capaldi in the films).

If anything, this second adventure is even better than the first, crowned by a ripe comic performance from Hugh Grant as dastardly actor-thief Phoenix Buchanan – it’s one of his most likeable turns, even if he is the baddie. They always get the best lines. Now settled into Windsor Terrace and very much a part of the Brown family (and the local community), Paddington – voiced with remarkable sensitivity by Ben Whishaw – is trying to get a job to earn some money to buy his Aunt Lucy back in Peru an antique pop-up book featuring the landmarks of London. This occasions several fine comic episodes of the bear as a window cleaner, or as a hopeless barber.

But it also lands him in jail, wrongly accused of the theft of the book. Throughout his travails, it’s Paddington’s furry cheer that wins you over. He’s a little guy in a big city, the sort of character you’d get in Frank Capra films, or Preston Sturges comedies, and he looks just adorable in his various little outfits, even the prison uniform which, following his own shift in the prison laundry and a rogue red sock, has turned a fetching combo of black and pink stripes.

It’s typical of Paddington’s unbeatable optimism that he refers to his new home as ‘one of London’s most impressive Victorian structures’, where he befriends prison hard man Knuckles McGinty (Brendan Gleeson) and soon has all the inmates baking cupcakes and nibbling marmalade sandwiches. 

Heavens, so complete is the spell, I’m even talking about the bear as if he were real.

Director Paul King – whom I’ve met a few times and who, frankly, is actually a bit like a human Paddington – creates a fairy-tale, stylised London (similar, say, to the fantastical worlds of Wes Anderson or Amélie director Jean-Pierre Jeunet), teeming with lovable eccentrics and neighbours. It’s a very accepting place for a bear, which in itself is rather heart- warming and, sadly, probably a bit fantastical these days, too.

Mention must be made of the Brown family, with Hugh Bonneville bumbling into his midlife crisis and Sally Hawkins at her neurotically messy best. I giggled and laughed out loud, and I felt my heart glow. But there’s also a particular warmth you get knowing that your kids and wife, indeed everyone in the room, are having just as good a time. As the plot gets a bit madcap, the curmudgeon in you might start to wonder where it’s all going, or how many more of these things you might have to sit through,
but really those should be thoughts for another day.

Like his favourite marmalade, this Paddington is spreading the sweetness around and intent on finding the good in everything – sentiments far too precious right now to be kept under his, or anyone’s, hat.