My dear Aunt Lucy,
I hope this review finds you well in the Home for Retired Bears in Lima. I think you would be pleased to know that, with a friendly Malaysian journalist’s assistance, I’m trying my paw at critiquing films. And apparently there’s another made about yours truly! Delightful, I should think! The film, too.
As my beloved biographer Michael Bond once quoted me as saying, “Things happen to me – I’m that sort of bear.” This enticing film proves the point about my “accidental” nature. I honestly mean no ill will! (Yes, Mr. Curry, I really don’t.)
From the time the Browns read the words “Please look after this bear. Thank you”, I was warmly looked after by them, and I’m sure by others as well.
This comedy-(mis)adventure film shows how far I’ve come from the events of its splendid predecessor. I enjoyed settling in with the Brown family at Number 32 and with my neighbours in Windsor Gardens. But I wanted to get a special gift for your 100th birthday. The item that I particularly wanted and that I worked hard to buy was stolen though, and before I could enunciate Mr Bond’s words, “I’m not a criminal… I’m a bear!” I was wrongfully arrested for the theft! What followed was a hair-raising, exciting caper with just the right emotions, as I sought to find the elusive thief, clear my name, and recover the stolen item. But not without help from the unlikeliest of places.
Paddington 2 captures the heart and essence of my many original adventures (okay, misadventures) as documented by Mr Bond, and greatly ups the ante from the previous film. A story of a good-natured, kind-hearted Peruvian-English bear trying to, as Mr Brown puts it, “look for the good in all of us” and going the extra mile to help others out with their problems whether they know it or not, more often than not finding himself in sticky situations (again, I can’t help it, Aunt! And, yes, marmalade pun intended).
But, as Mr Bond quotes Mrs Bird and as this film proves, “bears always land on their feet”. Just another way of saying that things always turn out all right for me and those I care about.
In so saying, what’s pleasant about this film is that even minor characters are dynamic and round. Eventually, almost everyone undergoes one change or another. It’s called character development, the helpful journalist says.
I’m glad the Browns, like in the first film, have each been given unique personalities that more or less complement modern times, a tremendous step up from the respectable Mr Bond’s books. And most of these play relevant parts during the course of the film. Come to think of it, this sequel refreshes your mind and provides you with enough context and background from the previous film.
There are plenty of references and allusions to the beloved children’s book series, which ardent fans will be pleased to see; yet the film remains its own story.
There are some striking general similarities, I noticed, between my story and Stuart Little’s, with the most major differences really being that of animal-type and setting. I’m glad the filmmakers retained my characteristics and enhanced them, such as my kind nature, determination, peeves and hard stare, most reminiscent of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic’s Fluttershy, methinks.
Hugh Grant’s Phoenix Buchanan steals the show with his colourful West-End-esque self-conversing charms, and Ben Whishaw does a marvellously well-mannered impression of me.
The themes of family, friendship, togetherness, belonging, optimism, goodness, redemption, reformation and appreciation are, as one might anticipate, prominent.
The film envelops you from the word go with a tingly feel-good sensation, like all is right with the world, yet balances it out with the realistic (and at times comical) danger/trouble that I face for the majority of the film. Which, if I may, adds a whole lot more heart, depth and emotion to it. You can’t help but warm up to and sympathise with the whole notion.
The film accurately (and perhaps with more visual depth) portrays the Browns as the kind family they really are to me, growing so much from the previous film.
My optimistic, hardworking, polite and gentlebearliness shines forth nicely. I can see how the bear in the film (and his marmalade) touches the lives of all he encounters.
The cinematography, I must say, is fast-paced, action-packed and appealing, what with a unique smooth pop-up-book-style filming thrown in.
Besides the heart and soul theme, what takes this outstanding film home is what the British do best: smart, humorous and dry-witted comedy. From Charlie Chaplin-like laugh-out-loud comical moments to Mr Bean-like action-based slapstick guffaw-inducers to even some Mind Your Language-like grin-stealing misunderstandings (where my innocent candor shines especially), the film does replicate as much as it could from the books.
Bits of the comedy might have been a little too comical at times, or some schemes a tad outlandish, but it doesn’t remove the heartiness of the film.
Now I’m afraid I shall have to stop here. In sum, I believe – as Mr Bond writes at the end of many of his chapters, “amid general agreement” – Paddington 2 is certainly a sequel worth watching, and not because I’m biased as the starring character, but because it is enjoyable, appealing and hearty. It has meaningful themes and preserves key original elements while filming in a bar-raising style.
I hope I did this film justice, and I hope to see you again soon.
Lots of love (and marmalade!),
Paddington Brown, Esq, resident of No. 32, Windsor Gardens, London
Cast: Ben Whishaw, Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Hugh Grant, Brendan Gleeson, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent, Peter Capaldi
Director: Paul King