Presenting an idealised version of London, Paddington 2 is an undoubtedly British film. The cast, tone and visual style all share that patriotic Britishness inherent in such franchises as Harry Potter mixed with the quirkiness of a Wes Anderson film. This is a small film but it is small in the best way; it knows exactly what it is and delivers exactly what we expect: wholesome, heart-warming entertainment.
Revisiting Paddington and the Brown family, little has changed and the film begins with a series of very charming yet isolated segments as the titular bear tries to raise money for his Aunt Lucy’s birthday. However, things soon turn south with the introduction of Hugh Grant’s thespian antagonist, a strong role for the aging actor whose smile is an iconic British image in itself, and Paddington finds himself wrongfully imprisoned. While the film does jump a lot between the various characters and creates obvious setups for the final act, a lot can be excused through the pure charm of the proceedings; this world is so squeaky clean and cheerful that it’s obvious nothing is meant to be taken too seriously. The less focused narrative is somehow an improvement on the first film, adding to the whimsical and carefree nature the famous bear is known for. On a technical level the film is perfect, Paddington himself a perfect blend of cartoonish expressions and enough realism to always have a presence on screen, interacting with situations and characters as if he was really there. This is helped by the charming voice of Ben Whishaw adding an innocent sophistication to the animated body.
With the stakes never feeling too high, Paddington 2 can often be a relaxed viewing experience but it is nevertheless an entertaining one with each scene full of the innocent humour and thrills one expects from this kind of modest British family film. While the emotions created can often be very blatant and unsurprising, each laugh and each tear still comes naturally thanks again to the pure charm of the film; the quirky Britishness that defines it.
In an age of huge blockbusters, Paddington 2 is a breath of fresh air that brings back the wholesome fun and innocence of great British films like Four Weddings and a Funeral. While not an instant classic, it is more than enough to leave a smile on your face and a certain craving for marmalade sandwiches.