Paddington 2 movie review: A charming children’s film that promotes empathy in a cynical world

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How often do you see a sequel that is even better than the original film? Paddington 2 is not only more charming, more effective and more memorable than the first film, it’s also a wonderfully hopeful way to start off the cinematic new year. If you’re feeling grumpy on any level this movie is tailor made to warm the cockles of your heart.

The film picks up not many days after the events of the first film. Paddington (once again voiced by Ben Whishaw) is settled in his new home with the Browns (Sally Hawkins, Hugh Bonneville). He’s also got a part time job of cleaning windows because his fur mixed with soap is a natural mop. Things take a turn when a mysterious bearded magician steals a pop-up book from Mr Gruber’s (Jim Broadbent) shop and Paddington is blamed for the theft. It’s up to the Browns and their beloved bear to catch the real thief and discover what mysteries lie in the book.

A still from Paddington 2

The best thing about the film is how it serves simple pleasures with ease. In an era when every movie is getting the loud blockbuster treatment, writer-director Paul King keeps things very quietly British and very compactly intimate through most of the run time, so when the big stuff happens in the finale it feels surprisingly epic. Of course there is nothing compact about the filmmaking process because the craft and detailing behind the scenes is quite epic in scale – it’s the illusion of smallness that King conjures that works like magic.

There is no way to know when the physical sets stop and the VFX shots begin; and even smaller things such as a scene seamlessly shifting from a jungle to a prison cell is done without cuts – it’s quite an astonishing visual achievement but is done so fluidly King makes it look easy. The same goes for a whole sequence that puts the audiences into a pop up book.

But the real draw of Paddington and his friends are the warm, cute characters straight out of a bed time story book. Everyone – including Brendan Gleeson who joins the cast – is perfectly British and pleasant, but not in an overtly sweet and cloying way but in a winning, huggable way. This is a tough balance to pull off – contrast this film to Frank Darabont’s The Majestic where the sweetness of the characters makes you want to claw your nails on their faces.

In Paddington 2 even the bad guy (whose identity is best left for you to discover) is courteous and charming rather than the stereotypical mustache twirling villain with a master plan you see in kids’ films. Of course this isn’t just a kids’ film because the filmmakers mange to inject adult themes such as the issues of racism and immigration, again with a feather light touch and a bus load of charisma.

During these increasingly cynical times it’s nice to sit back and enjoy a film with people who are nice to each other, and to you. The funny thing is the people in the film don’t represent a fairy tale make believe world, but a world which could exactly mirror the world that we live in if people tried just a little harder at empathy.

It’s difficult to expect people to change just by watching this movie, but children growing up watching this kind of cinema is a very healthy habit that could actually cause a real societal change 20 years from now.

More of these films and Paddington would ultimately become the savior of the human race.

Published Date: Jan 11, 2018 12:04 PM | Updated Date: Jan 11, 2018 12:04 PM


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