‘Paddington 2’ Review: A Blockbuster You and Your Child Deserve
“If we’re kind and polite, the world will be right,” Paddington quotes this wisdom from Aunt Lucy multiple times.
If you look at the modern blockbuster universe, you will mostly find CGI-fuelled bombasts that treat violence as the only possible way out of a crisis. Studios are untouched by the idea of kind-heartedness, and films for mass consumption hardly brighten themselves with empathy.
In such an oppressive atmosphere, Paddington 2 arrives like a gust of compassion. Paul King’s sequel to his utterly delectable Paddington (2014) is so gleeful and welcoming that your hard-nosed cynicism will bite the dust, and your mouth will taste the candy flavour of kindness.
In average resourcefulness, Michael Bond’s bear and his adventures could easily be the victim of the cash-grab virus. But King is a director with a marvellous oddball apparition, for he continues to conjure Paddington’s world in such a distinctly delightful glow that everything feels sunny and warm.
The entire narrative is devised like a theme park. As soon as you enter, you are welcomed by a London bathed in primary colours, characters who mock in such clever wordplay that a mere blink can make you miss it, the gags pay off like a Chaplin protégé, and the physical action build on each other like a Mel Brooks’ masterpiece. The production design has Wes Anderson-esque symmetry and style, but it has a certain spontaneous sweetness that is absent in Anderson’s wilful dispassion.
Paddington (2014) gave its hat tip to the booming immigrant crisis in Europe, by bringing the talkative bear from the forests of Peru to the urban jungles of London for adoption, something that provided one of the impetuses for Bond to create the charming bear. Paddington 2 feels more urgent with post-Brexit London playing the beloved home for Brown family’s adoptive furry fellow.
As the film opens, we find Paddington as the favourite of his family and neighbourhood. Only his racist neighbour Mr. Curry (Peter Capaldi) can’t stand the sight of him. But our bear has nothing to worry. An entire British royalty of acting is by his side ― Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent, Sanjeev Bhaskar – playing his family and friends.
Ben Whishaw voicing the little bear displays once again why he is that rare talent who can summon a world of gentleness simply by modulating his vocal cords.
The primary challenge for our furry hero is to find a job, so that he can buy a pop-up book as a birthday present for his Aunt Lucy (Imelda Staunton). In a magnificently illustrated sequence, we see the little bear welcoming his aunt on the pages of the book itself.
From the docks to the landmarks of London, everything is realised with such joy that you know in your heart like Paddington, that this is the perfect gift for Aunt Lucy. The struggle for money lands our hero in two subsequent jobs, as a window washer and a barber, both providing space for amiable gags, and unfiltered smiles.
But there’s a villain to give our little hero a tough time. Taking it many notches above the murderous taxidermist played by Nicole Kidman in the first film, Hugh Grant plays a faded star ala Gloria Swanson, waiting for his one-man show at London’s West End.
He steals the pop-up book which has a clear link to his past and a hidden treasure, sending our bear to prison in a frame-up, and the film sets itself for a larger adventure story.
Grant squeezes the theatricality of the character, hamming himself to the high heaven. His jubilantly evil-natured whiff amps up the proceedings with its droll sweep. The actor is clearly enjoying the deliberate over-boarding, playing multiple disguises ― a nun, a homeless person to a high-end dog in a commercial. This is such a scene stealing turn, you wonder why he wasted himself in those cloying romantic comedies all these years?
"If we're kind and polite, the world will be right," Paddington quotes this wisdom from Aunt Lucy multiple times in the film, and the film sincerely exercises this moral by displaying zero tolerance for cynicism.
Humour and empathy are so intricately woven in the narrative that even a dreary set-up like a prison is turned into a baking heaven, with flower arrangements, swinging dance numbers, and an earful of bedtime stories. The rest is as delicious as marmalade sandwiches.
This is the kind of blockbuster your child deserves, and quite frankly, you too.
(The writer is a journalist, a screenwriter, and a content developer who believes in the insanity of words, in print or otherwise. He tweets @RanjibMazumder).
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