Paddington sequel delivers cinematic hug
Taking the simple things and doing them well is very much to the credit of this CGI film, with its raft of cameos and mix of heart and laughs, writes Darren Bevan.
Those looking for deeper meaning in Paddington 2, the sequel to the thoroughly charming first outing in 2014, could argue it's a tale of tolerance and the difference made by an immigrant in pre-Brexit Britain viewed with post-Brexit eyes.
But those looking for a familial romp, ripped and slightly bastardised from Michael Bond's original writings will also be deeply satiated.
Loosely, this magical tale, with its deft visuals and genuinely naive and lilting vocals from Ben Whishaw, concerns itself with Paddington's desire to get his Aunt Lucy the perfect birthday present.
Settling on a pop-up book in the local antiques shop, the bear takes a series of jobs to obtain the right amount of cash.
But when he sees the book stolen one night, he's framed for the crime he didn't commit, jailed and left hoping the Brown family can save the day.
It's easy to dismiss the likes of Paddington in the cynical CGI world we currently live in, but the fact that it takes the simple things and does them well is very much to the film's credit and definitely not to its detriment.
With its raft of cameos (perhaps more familiar to British audiences than international ones) and its simple tale brilliantly executed, it's the ultimate family fare in more ways than one.
There's a feel-good air which permeates Paddington 2 and makes it thoroughly charismatic.
There's a great heart to Paddington 2 – and the director's smart enough to ensure that there are plenty of laughs as well.
From pratfalling Paddington (channeling his very best CGI Charlie Chaplin in early scenes) to Brendan Gleeson gleefully delivering lines that are amusingly written and fall shy of stereotypes, there's a feel-good air which permeates Paddington 2 and makes it thoroughly charismatic.
As well as Whishaw's heartfelt delivery of the innocent bear's lines, much of the credit has to go to Hugh Grant's deft delivery and definitively hammy (but not overly so) performance as the villain of the piece. Playing a luvvie who's fallen from grace, and who's got a tendency to drop into other characters at the drop of a hat, Grant's Phoenix Buchanan is as much a villain as a misunderstood hero.
Throughout, Paddington 2 treads a fine line between reverence and going its own way – it's to director Paul King's credit that it all emerges and blurs into one generally well-intentioned final product. It may be sentimental in many ways, but Paddington 2's view of a fantasy Britain where everyone gets along has both a basis in reality and the dreamworld.
Ultimately, Paddington 2 is perfect family holiday entertainment. Bathed in a warm glow of fun, with a generous helping of holiday heart, this bear is likely to offer you a big cinematic hug from beginning to end.
Cast: Ben Whishaw, Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Hugh Grant, Brendan Gleeson, Peter Capaldi
Director: Paul King