Creative 'Paddington 2' is a clever piece of family-friendly British wit

Image via StudioCanal

Wrongly convicted of robbing an antiques shop, Paddington is sentenced to an astounding 20 years alongside some of the country's most hardened criminals.

Here we see, Paddington, once again voiced impeccably by Ben Whishaw, leading a happy life. Paddington is very focused on getting the right birthday gift for Aunt Lucy and finds himself in an antique shop, where he discovers a unique item that would be just flawless. But along the way, he gets framed and thrown into prison himself, where the film follows his adventures trying to fit in with the other inmates, particularly the gruff cook Knuckles (Brendan Gleeson), ingratiating himself with his magic recipe for those marmalade sandwiches that is a lot better than the slop he has been serving up. Meanwhile, the Browns set out to clear Paddington's name and uncover not only who really stole the pop-up book, but what they want with it in the first place.

Given the rocky paths of many sequels, it's a special joy that "Paddington 2" is sweet as marmalade.

"Is it too lame to get wrapped up in the messages in a kid's film?" On the surface level, the script by King and Simon Farnaby (Yonderland) preaches generosity and kindness towards others in a way that audiences of all ages can understand and appreciate, all while serving up a tightly woven narrative full of amusing and touching moments alike.

This is where the movie hits its stride.

"Paddington 2" is a winsome confection. The verbal jokes (every newspaper headline we see contains a clever bit) fold easily into the visual tone (director King's staging and framing treats the action as a series of storybook pop-up moments, carefully composed but fleet-footed).

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Earlier in the day Hugh went to New York Live to talk about the film, and was candid and witty as he spoke about his character Mr Brown: 'Well [he] gets passed over for promotion and he feels like his world is falling apart, he's getting fat, he's starting to creak, his hair is going grey. Even the slapstick comedy sequences in the sequel are creatively executed and manage to pay homage to classic works of cinema (Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times in particular gets a amusing nod here), while still working on their own for those moviegoers who aren't familiar with the references being made.

Grant essentially steals this whole movie as the thief, an egotistic, washed-up actor named Phoenix Buchanan. The film featured an impressive cast, including Sally Hawkins as Mrs.

Equally terrific here are Gleeson and Grant as the two key new additions in the Paddington sequel. The bear doesn't care about the latest technology or pop culture references. Few actors have embodied utter Britishness in the last 30 years than Hugh Grant, so Phoenix Buchanan is a part he seems born to play. It's enough to make you think he was wasted for decades in stuttering rom-com leads when he has so much more comedic range.

Paddington 2 is not only as warmhearted and well-crafted as its predecessor, it's the rare sequel that improves on the first installment.

The film veers from enormously amusing to slightly sad, and never stops pushing the importance of family, whether it be the one consisting of the Browns and the ursine lad who lives with them or the one that lives, against their will, behind bars.

By the time "Paddington 2" opens, the young bear has become the light and life of the neighborhood, embraced by all except the Browns' scowling, xenophobic neighbor Mr. Curry ().

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