Review by Gordon Justesen
Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Brendan Gleeson, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent, Peter
Capaldi, Hugh Grant, Ben Whishaw
Director: Paul King
Audio: Dolby Atmos-TrueHD
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio: Warner Bros.
Features: See Review
Length: 104 Minutes
Release Date: April 24, 2018
“If we’re kind and polite, the world will be right.”
The character of Paddington Bear has always had sentimental value with me. My mom was an extremely devoted fan and collector of all things Paddington. Because of her love for him, I was introduced to the character as a child and whenever I spotted him in a book or in a toy store, I would always think of her instantly.
She passed away eleven years ago, and I'm sad she didn't get to see Paddington’s glorious translation to the screen. The bear’s first big screen adventure arrived three years ago, and it was one of the absolute best family movies to come around in quite some time. Now comes the arrival of Paddington 2, which I’m delighted to say is even greater!
Before I delve into the actual movie, let me first unleash some well deserved praise to Warner Bros. The first movie was released under The Weinstein Company, as was this sequel initially. In the wake of the scandal that undid that studio, it was likely that this movie would suffer the horrible fate of never getting released, until Warner stepped in and made sure that didn’t happen! Their gesture must be applauded.
The first movie detailed Paddington being taken in by a human Brown family when he finds himself lost in London after traveling from his Peruvian jungle stomping grounds. They discover the bear has a label around his neck that reads “Please look after this bear. Thank you", and follow those instructions literally. He found himself adjusting to his new family life quite well, all the while trying to escape the clutches of a sinister taxidermist.
The sequel finds Paddington (voiced by Ben Whishaw) now a beloved member of the community of Windsor Gardens, bringing joy and happiness to all those who cross his path. The bear is now determined to get himself a job so he can make enough money to buy a special present for his Aunt Lucy, who is about to turn 100. The gift in question is an antique pop-up book that details London in such a vivid way, and may serve as the closest she ever gets to seeing it.
Eventually, Paddington crosses paths with that of Phoenix Buchanan (played to perfection by Hugh Grant), a washed-up stage actor whose career is now limited to that of dog commercials. Finding himself talking to his many character costumes, Buchanan is also a demented master of disguise who is convinced that the same pop-book contains clues to a hidden treasure. He then steals the book, which Paddington witnesses but is unfortunately framed for the crime.
Having landed in prison, Paddington isn’t too much welcomed by the more menacing inmates. However, his passion for that of marmalade leads to an unlikely bond with the chef Knuckles (Brendan Gleeson), who soon plans to help the bear escape prison. Meanwhile, Paddington’s human parents, Henry (Hugh Bonneville) and Mary (Sally Hawkins), attempt to uncover the truth behind the theft of the book, as they firmly believe of the bear’s innocence.
The movie is an all around wonderful balance of whimsical humor, engaging adventure and absolute hear-warming tenderness that feels completely genuine and not the least bit forced or manipulative. Writer/director Paul King, who also wrote and directed the first film and is best known for the hit British comedy series The Mighty Boosh, establishes a downright flawless balance between these many qualities in bringing author Michael Bond’s beloved character to the screen, even managing to squeeze in a heart-tugging conclusion that, I must admit, left me a bit teary eyed.
It’s been well publicized that Paddington 2 has the rare distinction of sitting at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. While I do have issues with that web site seeming to have the last word on the overall quality of movies, the rare honor bestowed upon this movie is not to be disbelieved. It is a purely joyous movie experience that I hope every family gets to experience.
This Blu-ray release from Warner boasts a most engaging and colorfully lively presentation. And I want to stress “color” because there isn’t a frame of this movie that isn’t alive with it! There’s even a visual gag that’s purely dependent on color, which gets an even bigger visual impact due to the remarkable quality here. It’s a wonderfully rendered and gloriously detailed presentation that matches the overall joy of the movie itself!
The Dolby Atmos sound mix delivers an equally lively sounding presentation. The standout moments belong to several winning musical numbers provided by the duo Tobago and D’Lime, who actually pop up in the movie at numerous points. A climatic scene on top of a train also provides terrific sound performance, and dialogue delivery is handled in pitch perfect form!
Included on this Warner Blu-ray is a commentary track with writer/director Paul King, as well as a number of short featurettes. Among them are “Paddington: The Bear Truth”, as well as “How to Make a Marmalade Sandwich”, “The Magical Mystery of Paddington’s Pop-Up Book”, “The Browns and Paddington: A Special Bond”, “Knuckles: A Fistful of Marmalade”, “The (Once) Famous Faces of Phoenix Buchanan”, as well as music video featuring Hugh Grant as Buchanan.
Paddington 2 joins a club with very few members; that of sequels that are even greater than they’re predecessors. There is simply a magical quality to this film that has been missing from most family films, and I hope this series continues for as long as possible!