If there’s a film cure for what ails you, it’s surely PADDINGTON 2. The concept of Paddington being sent to prison for a crime he didn’t commit sounds like a particularly twisted ROBOT CHICKEN sketch, but it’s actually the route to a lot of heart and humour.
Paddington’s (Ben Whishaw) idyllic family life is abruptly ended after he is framed for robbery by a devious actor (Hugh Grant) with a score to settle. The little bear finds himself serving time with some not terribly nice people with only his family marmalade recipe to protect him, while the Browns attempt to clear his name on the outside.
‘Be polite and look for the best in people” is still such a lovely message to promote. It’s a moral for an ideal world, one where you don’t get shanked in prison for dying everyone’s uniform pink, but Paddington’s world – a world where you always try being nice to your enemies, or you buy a printing press to get over a bad breakup – is one to aspire to.
I found myself increasingly thinking of Paddington as a Charlie Chaplin-esque character in the way he is animated to move and behave, then director Paul King put in an explicit MODERN TIMES reference to complete the picture. In contrast to the Tramp, the chaos Paddington causes is never malicious, or even mischievous. It comes out of genuine misunderstanding and innocent mistakes.
Paddington is one of the fictional characters I identify with the most because he looks for the best in people, but when someone really crosses him he never forgets it. We’re naive but potentially ruthless people, as evidenced by our trustful natures and hard stares.
Hugh Grant must have had such fun as luvvie baddie Phoenix Buchanan, a past-it thespian reduced to doing dog food adverts and having Gollum conversations with his costumes in the attic. Speaking of costumes, seeing Grant trotting (never quite running) around in a series of increasingly ridiculous outfits that Inspector Clouseau would be proud of never gets less funny. The cast is still a very well-rounded ensemble, with the addition of Brendan Gleeson as the cuddliest possible-murderer ever seen in a family film and the Browns (Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Madeleine Harris and Samuel Joslin) are all still excellent and lovely. Look out too for cameos from all of British acting establishment who didn’t get a go at HARRY POTTER, plus several who did.
What an accomplished visualist Paul King is, and what a winning partnership he develops with DP Erik Wilson (who has made his name with grittier material like SUBMARINE and TYRANNOSAUR). Between a reprise of the “doll’s house” shot from the first film, a magical dip into a pop-up world and time and passion put into making every shot as beautiful as it can be, Paddington 2 is one of the best-looking films 2017.
I can’t quite put my finger on it, but something has been lost between the first Paddington and its sequel. Maybe it feels a little looser, plot-wise than last time, maybe it’s the the unnecessary chase scene that goes on and on with Paddington riding a wolf hound in pursuit of a burglar. Maybe its the seeming need to for a second film to provide increased (if still quirky) spectacle than last time. Quibbles aside, maybe the world itself is now so lost not even Paddington’s optimism can save it, or his hard stare convince it to change. Paul King and company can put out loving tribute after loving tribute to Michael Bond’s little bear and enthrall all ages doing so, but Paddington might be trying to lend a paw too late in 2017. SSP