Paddington 2 is the rare movie that can be unabashedly adored by anyone of any age, with its exciting plot and unrelenting positivity.

Paddington (Ben Whishaw) the bear has grown accustomed to his life in London living with the Brown family (Sally Hawkins and Hugh Bonneville). He decides he wants to find a perfect gift for his aunt, and discovers a pop-up book of London at Mr. Gruber’s (Jim Broadbent) antique store. Paddington happens to mention the book to the Brown family’s washed-up actor neighbor, Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant). Phoenix steals the book, and Paddington is mistakenly arrested for the crime and sent to prison.

The great thing about Paddington 2 is that it is not just a fantastic sequel, but also a wonderful movie overall. It is filled with laughs, but it is also filled with heart. The first film gave Paddington 2 a strong foundation to build upon, and the sequel greatly benefits from no longer having to completely rely on a fish out of water trope.

Paddington 2 benefits from having a more complex plot with a more intriguing villain. The story takes multiple turns throughout the film, keeping it constantly upbeat. It does a brilliant job balancing the main storylines of Paddington’s experience in jail, the Brown family’s search for Paddington, and Phoenix embarking on a treasure hunt, until the three coalesce to a wonderfully satisfying conclusion.

Probably the greatest improvement from Paddington is the new villain. Nicole Kidman’s villain in the first film felt uninspired, and struggled to move the plot along as a taxidermist trying to catch Paddington. Granted, the first film had the added weight of having to introduce Paddington to the Browns and London life, which was more important to build the franchise than to have a compelling villain.

However, Paddington 2 creates an exciting story around the villain, to the extent that Hugh Grant even manages to steal the show. Grant gives a fantastic performance as a washed-up actor who often takes on the personas of his previous roles. He is somehow both despicable and sympathetic, but is mostly just a joy to see in a menagerie of absurd costumes.

Despite the significance of Grant’s villain, this never detracts from the other characters’ storylines. In fact, Paddington 2 has incredibly effective character development with basically every character. While Paddington remains the same earnest and hopeful bear, his positivity makes an impact on every single person around him.

Paddington 2 is able to stand out further with its visuals. This really feels like a creative and inspired film based on the insertion of certain sequences utilizing distinct styles. Occasionally, the film will enter a meta medium, such as telling portions of the story through pages of a book or through illustrations. These are not just gimmicks, and really help to enhance the story, by giving some visual contrast.

Ultimately, Paddington 2 is simply just a wonderful film. It is both hilarious and emotional, and really brings this CGI bear to life. It is a much-needed boost of positivity, and it does not hurt that it includes probably the greatest Shakespeare reference in movie history.

Grade: A

‘Paddington 2’ opened in theaters January 12, 2017

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