Thursday 15 March 2018
Bear Behind Bars
Directed by Paul King
Studio Canal Blu Ray Zone B
Late to the party again, as I was with the first installment in this extraordinarily entertaining and well made film series based on the much loved English character created by the, now sadly deceased, Michael Bond. Paddington 2 continues the adventures of everyone’s favourite marmalade sandwich eating bear from Darkest Peru as he continues to live with the Brown family and enrich the lives of his London community.
The film starts with a bit more of Paddington’s back story, depicting his first meeting with his ‘Aunt Lucy’. Now, I hate to say the film is obvious as to where it’s going but... well it’s not hard to work out what the last scene in this movie is going to be after seeing this pre-credit sequence. However... that didn’t stop me crying my eyes out at the ending due to the soppy nature of said denouement and, frankly, by the time you take the journey to the end of the film, no other ending would have done... so no problems there then.
Now, I probably didn’t enjoy Paddington 2 quite as much as the first one (which I reviewed here) but it’s certainly almost as entertaining and it has a mighty fast pace to it. All the usual slapstick applies and director Paul King, who also returns for this sequel, seems to have a good eye for creating great compositions with the obvious CGI elements added into the frames. Much of the film is predictable but it also homages the Britishness of the character... such as a bucket and ladder sequence when Paddington decides to become a window cleaner.
Why is he a window cleaner?
Well, I’m glad you asked. He needs to find a present for his Aunt Lucy’s 100th birthday to send to Darkest Peru and he finds the perfect thing in his local antique shop... a wonderful and, as it turns out, very rare pop-up book of London. So rare that there’s no way Paddington can afford it... even with the 50 pence piece Mrs. Bird (once again played by Julie Walters) found in his ear earlier in the movie. So to raise the money, after a false start where he completely wrecks his chances at being a barber’s assistant, he embarks on a job doing everybody’s windows and... he does it pretty well too. Unfortunately, he also accidentally alerts this film’s ‘bad guy' Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant), an out of work actor forced to do dog food commercials, to the whereabouts of the pop-up book which, unbeknownst to most people apart from the villain of the piece, contains clues scattered around various London landmarks, leading to a famous fortune in trinkets gifted to a deceased trapeze artist.
So, the evening before Paddington finally has enough money for the book, he notices Buchanan in the act of thieving said tome from the store and gives chase in a nicely put together pursuit sequence where he rides the neighbourhood dog he has befriended. Alas, the police don’t see Buchanan exiting, pursued by a bear... they just see our furry hero so, when Buchanan gives Paddington the slip, it’s our favourite bear himself who finds himself thrown into prison. A really nice, bizarrely idealised version of prison, to be honest but, you know... ‘tis a family film.
More adventures continue as the Browns attempt to prove Paddington’s innocence while the bear of the moment and his new prison friends, played by such notable guest stars as Noah Taylor and Brendan Gleeson (as the prison cook, Knuckles McGinty) have a daring escape plan to get Paddington back on the outside to clear his name.
And, yeah, it’s a great little movie.
It’s also filled with some very inventive and lovely set pieces on the visuals...
Such as a wonderful sequence when Paddington is first shown the pop-up book and his imagination projects himself and Aunt Lucy through the cardboard cutout pages on an exploration of London. It’s a beautiful scene and it’s also, presumably deliberately, reminiscent of the old and much loved Paddington TV show of the 1970s where everyone else except Paddington was represented by cardboard cut outs.
And, after accidentally turning all the prison uniforms pink in a ‘washing incident’, many of the jail sequences seem directly inspired by the relevant sequences in The Grand Budapest Hotel (reviewed by me here), if I’m not very much mistaken and even Dario Marinielli’s, pretty grooving score for the movie seems to follow suit for some of those ‘Desplat moments’ on the soundtrack.
The performances are lovely too, with a whole load of cameos from famous actors such as Peter Capaldi, Tom Conti, Ben Miller and, seriously, so many I can’t possibly mention them all here. And, of course, along with Q branch’s very own Ben Whishaw reprising voice duties for Paddington, we have Hugh Bonneville and Sally Hawkins back as Mr and Mrs Brown.
Both are a delight, of course and Hawkins tells the story of flying to England straight after her Oscar nominated turn in The Shape Of Water (reviewed here), only to find herself shooting more underwater scenes for Paddington 2. Now that I know the content of that underwater sequence, I have to say it’s one of those moments where Hawkin’s and a CG character absolutely pull off one of the most potentially devastating scenes you could think of in a family film. You know what you’re watching can’t possibly do what you think it’s going to do but both Sally and the CGI Paddington wordlessly convey a whole world of emotion in this part. Seriously, it really wipes me out now just thinking about it.
Of course, it’s a family film so all comes right in the end and, you know, while it has the much expected finish with a set up from the pre-credits sequence, stick around for the end credits look at Paddington’s scrapbook for a chance to see what happens to all the other characters in the film (plus an extra musical song and dance number from Hugh Grant).
And that’s all I’m saying about this one again because I’m getting all teary eyed just thinking about it, to be honest. Not as good as the first film in the franchise but a strong movie which in no way, shape or form lets down the memory of its predecessor. Paddington 2 gets two paws up from me!