The 2014 movie Paddington, based on the children’s books by Michael Bond, gets a welcome second outing in a London largely untouched by Brexit, racial tensions and financial anxiety. In the first movie, directed by Paul King, the anthropomorphised Peruvian bear Paddington (voiced by Ben Wishaw) landed up in the British capital to look for the explorer who had visited his family decades ago and had left behind a received pronunciation accent, proper English manners, and the recipe of marmalade.
Paddington settled in with the Browns, a stereotypically idealised British family that overcame its initial suspicion of this strange brown creature with a floppy red hat and a leather suitcase and made him feel welcome. In the sequel, Paddington sets out to buy a pop-up book about London for his beloved aunt Lucy and gets embroiled with charlatan entertainer Phoenix Buchanan, hammed to the hilt by the inimitable Hugh Grant.
Paddington’s perfect manners, trusting nature and doughtiness hold him in good stead over an adventure that involves a unique method of window cleaning, a prison term, a treasure hunt and, of course, the recipe for marmalade. King’s sequel is far more ambitious than the first, with a greater number of set pieces, more characters (including Brendan Gleeson as a grouchy prison cook) and colours and sets that share a pop-up quality with the birthday present that Paddington has his heart set on.
Ben Wishaw brings just the right child-like quality and drollery to the beautifully realised computer-generated talking bear. The Browns are not neglected in Paddington’s encounters with Phoenix, and both Hugh Bonneville and Sally Hawkins play along with a premise aimed at children and the young at heart. The lightweight material and charmingly quaint depiction of a London that surely exists only in colouring books prove as hard to resist as Paddington’s warm brown eyes.