Monday, 8 January 2018

Paddington makes life feel a bit more bearable

It is just possible that Paul King’s Paddington 2 is actually a ruse – a scheme to find the most miserable cinemagoer around, because it’s hard to imagine a film more unrelentingly charming.

Presumably it is possible to  take a dislike to it – but it would require a curmudgeon of truly epic proportions.

Picking up easily where the first film left off, we find Paddington and the Browns continuing their lives in West London, with the former continuing to bring sunshine into the lives of all his neighbours – well, with the exception of the unpleasant Mr Curry.

The only fly in the marmalade is that our ursine hero wants to find an appropriate 100th birthday present to send to Aunt Lucy in Peru.

Having seen a unique pop-up book of London, he imagines how that would allow his aged aunt to experience the city – a gorgeous sequence that pays homage to the BBC Ivor Wood shorts from the 1970s.

But the book is not cheap and so Paddington sets out to get himself a job and earn the money to buy it.

The results are as chaotic as you would imagine, but on the cusp of raising the cash, all his plans go awry when the book is stolen and he is framed for the theft. Sent down for 10 years, the Browns – and Mrs Bird – set out to clear his name.

Yes, yes – I know it opened two months ago, but there will still be no spoilers here.

The pace is excellent with not a single wasted moment. It pays to be attentive from the start, as what may appear to be brief, throwaway scene-setting moments come into their own later.

The cast is absolutely spot on – including all the cameo appearances from actors who presumably are now as desperate to appear in a Paddington film as they are to be in Star Wars.

Hugh Bonneville and Sally Hawkins as Henry and Mary Brown have the opportunity to further flesh out their characters, while Madeline Harris and Samuel Joslin as Judy and Jonathon ensure that their children are never annoying.

Julie Walters has some lovely moments as Mrs Bird, their housekeeper, while Peter Capaldi makes the most of the spiteful and xenophobic Mr Curry (standing in for Brexit?).

Brendan Gleeson is a delight as grumpy giant of a prison chef, Nuckles McGinty, and Tom Conti is a vindictive judge who it doesn’t pay to get on the wrong side of.

And of course, there is Ben Wishaw, giving voice to Paddington himself – a stunning CGI creation that remains utterly believable – the innocent abroad who persists in believing in tolerance and good manners and being nice to everyone.

But in a glittering cast, the stand out is Hugh Grant’s turn as arch villain Phoenix Buchanan – an egotistical stage actor whose career has plunged him to the depths of dressing as a dog to advertise “doggy din dins” – which sees him out-camp an entire field of tents with relish.

And on this note – do not leave before the end titles, with its delicious version of Rain on the Roof from Sondheim’s Follies.

In a world that currently seems hellbent on being as thoroughly shitty as possible, Paddington 2 is 103 minutes of unalloyed joy.

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