It’s entirely possible that one of the best movies of the year opened in January, a month long known to cinephiles as being filled with “January junk” that the studios recognize as being, shall we say, less than stellar.
“Paddington 2” is one of the most charming, delightful movies you’d ever want to see. And you don’t need to be a child to enjoy it, although it certainly is a terrific choice for family viewing.
Paddington is the good-natured bear who first appeared 50 years ago as the “star” of a children’s book, “A Bear Called Paddington.” The film sequel in particular is true to Paddington’s easy-going, positive ways.
Once again, Ben Whishaw provides the vocal cords for Paddington, who lives happily with his human family, the Browns. Sally Hawkins (“Happy-Go-Lucky”) is his adoptive mother, with Hugh Bonneville as Mr. Brown, and Madeleine Harris and Samuel Joslin reprising their roles as the Brown children.
Paddington wants to buy a pop-up book for his aunt, who lives far away. He doesn’t have enough money to make the purchase an instant one, so the book is set aside for him.
But someone else wants to get his/her mitts on the book. Eventually Paddington becomes a suspect in the theft, and ends up in the company of hardened criminals behind bars. It’s here that Paddington, who misses his bedtime stories, runs afoul of the ill-tempered Knuckles McGinty (Brendan Gleeson), who is in charge of the kitchen.
Hugh Grant is on hand as Phoenix Buchanan, a washed-up actor who still remains full of himself.
The laughs are many, and the direction is a wonder, from the animation of the pop-up book to Paddington’s career as a window washer and a laundry scene in which a red sock spells disaster for Paddington. Each scene is full of color and clever perspectives on the characters and activities.
Grant, not surprisingly, steals the show as the “veddy British” actor who has his own agenda. Gleeson is hilarious as the cranky cook who may be tough, but not tough enough to resist Paddington’s sunny disposition.
Whovians will be happy to see Peter Capaldi again in his small but pivotal role as Mr. Curry, an unfriendly fellow who never has liked Paddington.
Hawkins is wonderful as the fretful “mom” who never stops believing in Paddington. Interestingly enough, this is the second time recently she has befriended a non-human character on screen: She’s also one of the stars of the incredible “The Shape of Water.”
Please consider befriending Paddington yourself. I think you’ll love him.