Paddington 2 steamed into cinemas with one poignant message: A one finger salute to Brexiteers. Okay, I besmirch the world’s most famous bear by linking him with such a rude gesture. Aunt Lucy would clip his ears should he dare. But the hard stare! The good old aunt in darkest Peru would definitely have approved of that.
Oh, the misery of hindsight. If only the Remoaners had the foresight to enlist Paddington as their mascot. After you’ve seen Paddington 2, you get the feeling that all would have been well after the Brexit referendum.
Cinema goers wouldn’t expect anything less than a straightforward plot from a film with family entertainment at its core. However, in crafting a layered story, the writers risk weighing down the screenplay with heavy political undertones. But not to worry. In the deft hands of Paul King (returning as co-writer and director) and Simon Farnaby, politics works seamlessly in a near watertight script.
Paddington decides to buy Aunt Lucy an old pop-up book of London landmarks for her birthday. But he has to save up for the book. So he takes up work as a window cleaner. The only snag is that this in no ordinary pop-up book. All the landmarks have hidden clues that lead to a treasure chest.
The naïve bear has no idea about the hidden messages. When a thief steals the book, Paddington is arrested and sent to prison as the culprit. He meets an assortment of characters in jail. Nobody loves prison food. But that was before Paddington introduced marmalade to the menu. After that it’s easy to become BFF to the jailbirds. But time is running out. Paddington has to escape from jail in order to clear his name, and also recover the pop-up book.
Paddington 2 is a cracking, rib tickling adventure. The world famous ursine immigrant makes his trademark cock-ups. Paddington’s first job is as an assistant in a barbershop. What could possibly go wrong? The scene is sheer unadulterated comic delight.
Paul King cements his reputation as a confident hand at comedy. And the ensemble cast season continues. Hugh Bonneville and Sally Hawkins return as Mr and Mrs Brown. But it’s another Hugh that steals the show. Hugh Grant just got his mojo back – as the villain Phoenix Buchanan. On this showing, expect a BAFTA nod. The mercurial Brendan Gleeson – playing jailbird Knuckles McGinty – is averse to letting Grant have all the fun. Ben Whishaw remains the droll voice of Paddington.
Other stars vying for some Paddington stardust include Jim Broadbent, Julie Walters, Joanna Lumley, Jessica Hynes, Ben Miller, Tom Conti, and Sanjeev Bhaskar. My favourite comedian Jamie Demetriou squeezes in a cameo. It’s a long way from Youtube videos.
Peter Capaldi returns as the rabid xenophobe. He wants to keep Paddington away from the neighbourhood. But he faces formidable opposition from the ethnically diverse residents of the London street. There’s nothing subtle about this message.
Michael Bond – the creator of Paddington – died one day before filming wrapped on Paddington 2 in June 2017. This is a fitting tribute. Paddington 2 would have gladdened his heart.