I'd thought the first 'Paddington Bear' film (2014) just okay, though nothing to get really excited about. No such indifference with this sequel - I absolutely loved it! The visuals and the storyline inventiveness are astonishing, all the way through with minimal lapses. And I haven't laughed so much at a film comedy in a long, long time. It wasn't just me, the entire audience seemed to be in uproarious mood. A sheer pick-you-up tonic to counter the blues!
We once again find Paddington (created by the recently-deceased Michael Bond - and voiced magnificently spot-on by Ben Whishaw) still living in an affluent London suburb with the same family (Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Julie Walters) and with the neighbours familiar from last time, plus a number of new additions. In minor or cameo roles there is a veritable roll-call of British actors of film, theatre and TV over several generations - plus Brendan Gleeson as the scary, hard-man prison chef who makes all the other inmates cower with a mere glance.
Sometimes adding so many recognisable faces to a film betrays a sense of desperation in wanting to hold the audience's attention when the material is too weak or not funny enough to do the job. Not so here. It's a non-stop delight from beginning to end.
The plum acting bonus present in this is Hugh Grant (and what a hoot he is!) playing the dastardly villain - a pantomime villain, true, but perfectly in keeping with the spirit of the film.
The plot is simple enough, Paddington finding that an antiques shop has a pop-up book about London which he's set his heart on to buy and send to his Auntie back in Peru, but he can't afford it yet. While it's being kept for him, Hugh Grant, playing a former big-name actor now reduced to appearing in dog-food commercials, hears about the pop-up book, knowing that it uniquely contains the clues to the location of a literal treasure chest, so he has to get hold of it himself. It's then a matter of Hugh Grant attaining ownership of the book by devious means and Paddington trying to get it back to send his Auntie.
Director Paul King, who also directed the first film of three years ago, directs this with considerable panache, not slacking his grip for one moment and coming up with surprise on surprise.
Please don't let the presence of Hugh Grant put you off. I know some actively dislike him (I've always found him quite endearing) but in this, as in his marvellous portrayal in 'Florence Foster Jenkins', he goes well outside the former same foppish, bumbling character he always seemed to play in films up until a few years ago - and which I also liked, by the way. But how many times has he played a 'nasty'? Rarely, if ever. But here he seizes the chance with relish and with both hands, he being possibly the most memorable aspect, among many others, of the entire film!
Btw: I must implore anyone who sees this not to exit the cinema before the final credits. You don't have to wait long for a killer of a surprise during those end credits which I can practically guarantee will send you home with a mile-wide grin on your face.
I liked this so much that it had actually crossed my mind to award it an '8', but an inner voice started to nag at me, -"That would be just silly!" It may not be so silly when I say that this film could well end up in my Top 10 of 2017. So far it's probably the surprise of the year!...............7.5.
5 hours ago