I think I may have already seen my favourite movie of 2018. Paddington 2 improves on the excellent original in every way, and can justifiably be called one of the best sequels of all time.
As the film begins, Paddington is not only a full-fledged member of the Brown family, but an invaluable part of the entire neighborhood. His unassailable optimism and belief in finding the best in people has made Windsor Gardens a merrier place. One fateful day he enters Gruber’s Antiques and finds a pop-up book of London. We are then treated to a hauntingly beautiful journey through the book, as Paddington imagines showing his Aunt Lucy (currently residing at Lima’s Home for Retired Bears) the city that he’s grown to love. He decides it would make the perfect present for Aunt Lucy’s 100th birthday, one that could give her a glimpse of the city she always wanted to see. It’s quite expensive so Paddington vows to get a job and save up enough money to buy the book.
And so the story begins, and where it goes from there is too wonderful to spoil. Virtually everyone from the original movie returns, and adds delightful new layers to their characters. I was particularly impressed by Madeline Harris as Judy Brown, who, after a bad breakup, starts a school newspaper and becomes an intrepid reporter. Ben Whishaw, once again, breathes life into the titular character and turns in a truly magnificent performance. He is both naive and wise, playful and serious, and it’s here that this film truly shines – it understands what it’s like to be a child. Children may not understand the world the way adults do, but they know far more than they are often given credit for. Paddington 2, like its predecessor, respects children. There are no jokes “just for the adults”, no mean spiritedness, and no cheap shots. The kids in my audience were having a blast, as were their parents.
The slapstick humour is genuinely inspired and reminded me how funny a well-executed gag can be. A moment later on in the film contains a winking nod to Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times, and this reference is 100% earned. There are sequences that would be right at home in a Buster Keaton movie, such is the clarity of the filmmaking. This movie also contains the best Hugh Grant performance since, well, ever. His portrayal of a villainous washed up actor is one for the ages, and he’s clearly having a great time poking fun at himself. Brendan Gleeson shows up as a chef, and literally everything he does made me laugh.
If you haven’t seen the original yet I would highly recommend watching it before this one, but this movie very much stands on its own and could certainly be seen without any prior knowledge of the world of Paddington. I’ve heard that the creator of the books, Michael Bond, was a big fan of the first film and felt that Paul King and everyone involved had done justice to his creation. He sadly passed away before the release of Paddington 2, but I am confident he would have loved it. The world needs more Paddington, and I don’t think he could be in better hands.