Reeling it in: ‘Well done, Paddington!’

This image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows the character Paddington, voiced by Ben Whishaw, in a scene from “Paddington 2.” (Warner Bros. Pictures via AP)

“Paddington 2”

 

Warner Bros.

1 hour, 44 minutes

Paddington, the ursine protagonist of a series of children’s books, never seemed like the ideal subject for a big screen children’s film. Sure, he’s beloved, and has been in over 150 books, but his stories seem almost too gentile — too soft. Kind of like I can’t really imagine a good adaptation of “Madeline.” I know there’s been one, but haven’t sought it out because the original is perfect as is.

That said, the first “Paddington” film was very sweet. Not a perfect film, but entertaining and fun. Somehow, though, I was still unconvinced that a sequel could be any good.

Well, I was wrong again. “Paddington 2” is that rare creature — a sequel that far surpasses the original.

The new film finds Paddington fully integrated with the Browns, his adopted family, and into his London neighborhood. Though he’s but a small bear, he’s become a huge part of everyone’s lives, generally making things better and happier wherever he goes.

One day, while visiting with his friend the antique dealer, Mr. Gruber, Paddington happens across lovely handmade pop-up book depicting all the major London landmarks. This would be the perfect gift for his Aunt Lucy, currently residing at the Home for Retired Bears, too old to have been able to visit London on her own.

Unfortunately, Paddington, who must earn the money to buy the book, is not the only interested party. Someone else wants that book, someone who knows that it might just hold the secret to finding buried treasure. And when the book is stolen, Paddington’s luck turns from bad to worse as he is arrested and convicted of the crime, sentenced to ten years in prison.

However, being the bear he is, Paddington makes the best of it and soon finds the prison to be full of interesting, if somewhat unsavory characters. Meanwhile, on the outside, it’s up to the Browns to clear Paddington’s name and catch the real crook.

I can’t say enough good about this movie. The acting is great fun, with some excellent performances from Hugh Bonneville and Sally Hawkins as Henry and Mary Brown and good voice work from Ben Whishaw as Paddington.

The movie is rife with British character actors, including Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent, Brendon Gleeson and Tom Conti, and at least one genuine movie star in Hugh Grant, who turns in a scene stealing performance washed up actor Phoenix Buchanan.

It’s more, however, than good acting. Not only is the writing stellar, but the directing is spot on. It would be so easy to turn a film like this into a series of goofball topical jokes, but the filmmakers don’t fall for that trap. The movie is timeless, and oh, so sweet. It has the tone of the books, and doesn’t have to shoehorn in wacky action or fart jokes in order to make the point.

I honestly loved this film, and it didn’t hurt that I was in attendance with two kids under 10, my wife, and my mother-in-law who’s over 80, all of whom loved it as well.

Well done, Paddington!

Grade: A+

“Paddington 2” is rated PG for some action and mild rude humor.

Chris Jenness is an art teacher, freelance graphic designer, artist and movie buff who lives in Nikiski.

More