The fictional character of Paddington bear became a part of pop culture back in October of 1958. The bear was featured in well over 100 books written by British author Michael Bond. The bear, with a friendly demeanor, was part of a new species of bear found in the jungles of Peru, and has the ability learn English. The bears love marmalade, and in the case of Paddington he wears a duffle coat, wears a red hat, and when discovered as an orphan, was adopted by a couple of adult bears. Paddington made a splash on the big screen in the 2014 live-action/CGI animated film “Paddington”, and the film was a smash hit. The first film took Paddington to the streets of London where he was eventually adopted by the Brown family. In first film features a kidnap attempt so a villainous taxidermist can add the sweet bear to her collection. Flash forward to 2017 and fans of the kind brown bear can enjoy “Paddington 2” in theaters. In the new film Paddington is continuing his happy life with the Brown family, headed by Henry (Hugh Bonneville of “Downton Abbey”!), until he reveals his desire to purchase a rare pop-up book of London to send to the aunt who helped raise him. While the desire to purchase a rare book would normally present no issues, Paddington must begin working hard at odd jobs to save the money for the book.
During the course of his efforts, the villain of the story, actor Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant), hears about the rare book, and realizes this is the book he needs to find a vast collection of valuable jewelry hidden by the books author. While Buchanan is able to “find” the book, this results in Paddington being framed for supposedly sealing the valuable pop-up book. Unfortunately, our beloved bear is sent to prison for the crime, where he finds life challenging as he runs afoul of his fellow prisoners and the mean prison cook Knuckles (Brendan Gleeson). Not one to give up, Paddington, thanks to his friendliness and love for marmalade, soon wins over his fellow prisoners, and the quest begins both inside and outside the prison to prove his innocence. While he has been incarcerated, the Browns have been working feverishly to prove their beloved family member is innocent, while watching and dealing with the antics of actor neighbor Buchanan, who has never seen a mirror he didn’t love. Eventually, after an exciting sequence involving two trains, all is well and Paddington is reunited with his family. The film is very British, which should be no surprise if you saw the first film, and I loved that aspect of the films. These films have even left a desire in me to travel to England. The film features several surprise cameos by various British actors, including Joanna Lumley (“Absolutely Fabulous”) and Richard Ayoade (“The IT Crowd”).
As for the main cast, they are all wonderful, and after playing a rather stiff role in “Downton Abbey”, Bonneville is able to display his wonderful comedic talents in these films. With Grant, you can tell he relished his role as a fading egotistical actor, and he plays the role to the tilt, nearly stealing the film. The actor who voices Paddington, Ben Whishaw, is probably best know to American audiences for his role as Q in the two most recent James Bond films. Ben is a perfect match for the friendly bear, and the warmth in his voice brings the character to life and into our hearts. The film has plenty of witty dialogue, and provides a few lessons for kids along the way. If you have never seen a “Paddington” film, the time to start is now. I encourage you to watch the original and then head out to a theater to catch “Paddington 2” for the latest adventures of the inspiring bear, and you will leave the theater with a smile on your face and a sudden hunger for marmalade.
Rated PG / 4 Bears (out of 4)