Director: Paul King
Writers: Paul King and Simon Farnaby. “Paddington Bear” is created by Michael Bond.
Composer: Dario Marianelli
Stars: Ben Whishaw (voice), Sally Hawkins, Hugh Bonneville, Hugh Grant
Genre: Animation, Adventure, Comedy
The first Paddington was a surprisingly likable film, though, given its lack of buzz both during its release and the years following, it seems it was sadly overlooked. As one of the best family films of recent years, it’s difficult to say why. I can only hazard a guess that it might be because of its lack of association with well-known brands such Disney, Pixar, Dreamworks, or even Blue Sky Studios. In comparison, the production companies StudioCanal, TF1 Films Production, and Heyday Films aren’t exactly synonymous with children’s entertainment, although the latter was involved in the Harry Potter series.
There also may not be a lot of faith in live action kid’s movies anymore. It takes longer to produce an animated film, therefore the script is usually of a higher quality in order to make the end product worth the effort. So while CGI productions have soared in their ratings over the last decade, live-action films have fallen by the wayside. Yet Paddington, while it only managed a quiet success, demonstrated that movies of its type still have a lot to offer. The only real question now is whether the sequel can not only carry on the legacy forged by the original but can it also surpass it?
Violence/Scary Images: There are two scenes where a character nearly drowns. One involves rapids, while in the other the character is trapped in a sinking enclosure where it’s incredibly difficult to escape. The latter scene is quite lengthy and intense. One character threatens another with a sword. One character shoots a harmless dart gun at someone’s forehead. There is a long action sequence requiring the characters to jump from one train to another. During this there are a number of close calls with poles and tunnels. There are several scary characters in the prison, with one, in particular, threatening to harm the protagonist with his fists, though these characters aren’t intimidating for long.
Language/Crude Humor: “D*mmit” is muttered once and is hardly heard. Terms like “yellow bellies,” “coward,” and “weirdo” are used. One character is accused of being crazy for half the film. A man takes a bite of a spoonful of dog food. Paddington washes windows by rubbing his furry body, including his buttocks, across the glass. The bear also misuses toothbrushes and sticks them in his ears, only to put them in his mouth later. He also has a habit of licking people in socially awkward moments.
Drug/Alcohol References: A couple is served champagne at a dining table. They aren’t seen drinking it.
Spiritual Content: A scene takes place inside St Paul’s Cathedral. A character dresses up as a nun and later a priest. When one character does something incredibly foolhardy, another character recommends calling a priest, implying that they need their last rites to be read.
Sexual Content: A male character dresses up as a nun. Another male character, unaware of the nun’s real sex, comments on how he was the most attractive nun he’d ever seen. In one comedic scene, the phrase “really nice buns” originally refers to baked goods, but the context is later changed, with the line being said from a female boss to her male client. The guy is taken aback but later accepts it as a compliment.
Other Negative Content: The story revolves around the theft of a valuable object. This action is not seen in a positive light and the authorities are involved. There are a number of cases of breaking and entering, though it’s treated with more light-heartedness as a crime or is otherwise ignored. Jailbreaking is not treated realistically in terms of the severity of its punishment. In one scene, a rogue nun is suspected of a crime, and one line of dialogue suggests that it’s a regular occurrence for a nun to go a bit crazy. At one stage, Paddington rides an Irish Wolfhound like a horse. Hopefully, children won’t try to replicate this at home with their own pet dog!
Positive Content: Paddington takes the lessons from his aunt to heart, respectfully quoting and displaying the attitude of maintaining good manners above all else. He is a bear that doesn’t succumb to gossip, instead preferring to give absolutely everyone the benefit of the doubt. As he treats everyone with respect, he is perceived as an incredibly kind individual, gaining admiration from the community. He is a wonderful role model that inspires compassion, particularly for those who usually suffer from society’s prejudiced views.
There’s a lot to love and little to hate with Paddington 2. It’s difficult to say whether it is better than the original, though it is clear that this follow-up does not suffer from “sequelitis.” While the film once again addresses the issue of prejudice, it is not a mere rehash of Paddington. The characters utilize and build upon the lessons they learned from the first outing, while the little bear tries to seek acceptance in the most challenging and hostile environment he has ever faced to date: the prison system!
Essentially The Shawshank Redemption for kids, Paddington 2 is a silly romp, though in a delightfully charming, can’t-help-but-smile kind of way, as opposed to being mind-numbing for adults, as some films in this genre have been known to be. Part of the appeal may be the bear’s continual insistence in always choosing to be kind, no matter the scenario. He extols a number of Christian virtues–kindness first and foremost–and, like Paul from the Bible, remains amicable and hopeful during his time in captivity. Paddington is rather naïve at times, but despite a few flaws, it’s extraordinarily hard not to fall in love with this character.
Paul King is once again the director, which means that this sequel has maintained the same charming spirit as the first film. Like the original, the animation style changes, or a miniature world reveals itself, in order to whimsically tell one of the many stories within the story. Paddington 2 keeps the narrative fresh in its delivery, obtaining a sense of wonder as the plot unfolds. It’s not plain with its storytelling and tries to convey any necessary exposition in the most creative way possible.
Yet there’s certainly a sense of consistency between Paddington and Paddington 2. Now that a sequel exists, the hallmarks of this new franchise can be identified. Once again there are hilarious slapstick-fuelled sequences where a tiny problem morphs into a catastrophe. There’s also another wildly bumbling chase throughout the quaint suburban streets of London. A number of jokes are continued from the first film, though they still feel fresh and not merely trying to replay for laughs. As such, it was wonderful to view Paddington 2 straight after watching the first film again as it made for a richer experience, though it’s not necessary homework in order to understand the sequel. Adults and children alike shouldn’t have any problems picking up the plot without any prior knowledge.
When it comes to discussing the film’s flaws, there’s not a whole lot to say. It’s a solid family film; I’m not sure what more people could want. A good chunk of the plot does end up being inconsequential, which is always unfavorable amongst audiences. Yet to resolve it would make the story really similar to a lot of other movies, and not only would Paddington 2 lose some of its originality, it would also impact its lovely ending. The film also takes a few liberties in regards to how prisons operate, along with the legal system, but considering this children’s film immediately asks audiences to suspend their disbelief when it comes to a talking bear, these smaller issues are remarkably easy to overlook.
Indeed, a lot of the movie’s faults can only be uncovered when it is compared to the first film. However, to be clear, both are strong films. Paddington tended to have a sharper, wittier script. It was common to hear a zinger of a one-liner. With Paddington 2, the comedy is more scenario-based, with its slapstick routines or hilarious contrast of expectations. Adults may also find the surprising parade of familiar faces quite amusing as well.
Paddington had a wider range of themes, from the inclusion and acceptance of immigrants in society to conservation issues. D Lime’s calypso music and multiple cameo appearances helped to cement the idea that the mixing of different cultures assisted in adding vibrancy to life. Paddington 2, meanwhile, has a more narrowed focus on the topic of always being polite and respectful in order to find the goodness in people. The calypso music makes a return with Tobago and d’Lime, though their appearances feel more random and slightly intrusive this time around. Paddington seems to have the stronger soundtrack out of the two.
The same cannot really be said in regards to the villains. In Paddington, Nicole Kidman’s evil character had a personal link to the bear, whereas Hugh Grant, who plays the antagonist this time around, only clashes with the hero thanks to happenstance. Scriptwriting 101 will dictate that it’s always better to make things personal, though it seems that Paddington 2 may actually be the exception to the rule in this case. While the lack of any meaningful relationship between the protagonist and antagonist does make the plot shallower, with this film it also adds to its sense of whimsy and light-heartedness.
This is good considering the biggest complaint about Paddington was that its villain forced the tone of the film to make a dark turn. The sequel keeps it light and breezy in comparison and is more suitable for all ages. A lot of the more questionable content is absent in this latest installment. There aren’t any characters that are trying to drink each other under the table, nobody is using their sexual wiles to win over support from another, and the villain’s main objective doesn’t involve murdering the cutest sentient bear ever committed to film. Paddington 2 instead provides innocent, wholesome entertainment.
I attended an almost sold out session, with the cinema filled to the brim with kids. They were restless when the movie needed to slow towards the start of the second act (about forty minutes in), with Hugh Grant delivering some necessary exposition for the plot to progress. But apart from a few moments here and there, the children seemed to be completely enraptured with what was happening on screen. Paddington 2 has some riveting action sequences, particularly towards the end. There is a rather lengthy scene where one character nearly drowns. The kids in the cinema were shockingly quiet during these tense moments, as though everyone was holding their breath. Meanwhile, the child beside me tried to clamber into her mother’s arms for comfort. It’s quite intense, though it’s no Mufasa or Bambi’s mother, but if you have a child that is terrified of swimming or has some kind of related phobia, then watching Paddington 2 is certainly not going to help with that!
Overall, this is a wonderful family film that succeeds in entertaining both young and old alike, while also delivering a timeless message. Depending on what one values, Paddington 2 may well be better than its predecessor. It’s a strong movie for its genre, with little to dislike. It may not be accurate with how it portrays the legal system, but it contains such a delightful amount of whimsy and innocence that those pesky thoughts regarding real-world authenticity can be easily ignored. It’s a fun journey. Be sure to remain in your seats, because one of the best scenes in the entire film occurs partway through the credits. Don’t miss it!
+ It's utterly charming. + Wonderful light-hearted tone that makes it a great family film. + Villain isn't as dark as the first film. + Action sequences. + Entertaining cast. + Studies the importance of always choosing to be kind. + Did I mention it's charming?
- Its portrayal of the prison/legal system is fanciful at times. - One scene may be too intense for youngsters that are afraid of water. - The script isn't as witty as the first. - The original film has the better soundtrack.
The Bottom Line
Paddington 2 is a solid family film that is hard to fault. Depending on what one favors in a film, this is a sequel that may have surpassed its predecessor. Make sure you stay for the end credits for this one!