Review: Paddington 2 (2017)

Director: Paul King
Screenwriters: Simon Farnaby, Paul King
Starring: Ben Whishaw, Hugh Grant, Sally Hawkins, Hugh Bonneville, Julie Walters
Genres: Comedy, Children/Family
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for some action and mild rude humor
Release Dates: 1/12/18 (Theatres), 3/6/18 (Streaming), 4/24/18 (DVD)
Runtime: 1h 43min
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%
Where to Watch: Rent/Buy

Fact: Paddington 2 is currently the highest-rated film on Rotten Tomatoes; it has not only achieved the rare perfect 100% score, but has achieved the highest number of positive reviews ever. Is it the best film ever made? No, but it’s impossible to dislike, no matter how you feel about talking bears and whether or not you saw the first film (Paddington, released 3 years prior to this one). There’s plenty of material in both this one and in the previous film to appeal to children and adults alike. It’s charming, adorable, funny, uplifting, and clever. What’s not to like? 

It’s rare for a sequel to be even better than the first one — Empire Strikes Back is one of the few that comes to mind — especially when the first was already so delightfully wonderful. In Paddington 2, we see more of clumsy, good-hearted Paddington’s antics, along with his life with the Brown family. Through some ridiculous, yet still somehow believable, events, he ends up at a prison, and of course he makes friends and improves fellow prisoners’ lives. That would’ve been enough to keep me entertained, but the movie is even better with the addition of Hugh Grant as a gloriously vain former movie star who’s resorted to starring in dog food commercials. People weren’t exaggerating when they talked about how marvelous he is in this role, and he was even nominated for a BAFTA (British Oscars, essentially) for this. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen him be so perfectly ridiculous and scene-stealing, and this is evidently his best performance in years (not counting his recent acclaimed work alongside fellow Paddington villain Nicole Kidman on The Undoing).

Returning actors Sally Hawkins, Hugh Bonneville, and Julie Walters are as perfectly, charmingly silly as they were in the first film; it’s wonderful to see a typically-serious actor like Hawkins (who shot her Oscar-nominated role in The Shape of Water immediately after this movie) let loose and just have fun. There’s also an hysterically maniacal Brendan Gleeson, also having a blast, alongside a very diverse cast that speaks to Paddington’s universal appeal.

Because the Paddington movies take place in a universe in which talking bears exist — there’s even a Home for Retired Bears — none of what transpires should be taken too seriously or scrutinized so as to make the events of the film less realistic. It is not meant to be realistic, but from what I’ve heard it does speak truth to the British experience. And, luckily, this film doesn’t contain the kind of British humor that is esoteric and incomprehensible. There’s as much physical comedy as there is verbal, and everyone in the cast excels at both. Also, you don’t have to think too hard to realize that these films are about immigration (Paddington acclimating to life in London with human beings) and about acceptance. It doesn’t beat you over the head with it, though; rather, it’s woven into the narrative so precisely and cleverly that only adults and older children will pick up on it.