Paddington was a nice surprise in 2015, and that movie and its sequel, Paddington 2, have something in common besides the eponymous bear—criminally bad marketing campaigns. Warner Brothers rescued Paddington 2 from The Weinstein Company late last year, but then they just sort of set it adrift, dumping it in the winter boneyard without much promotion at all. Which is a shame, because Paddington 2 is TERRIFIC, and everyone should see it. Like the first Paddington, it’s sweet and adorable and though a kids’ movie, it is not a chore for adults to sit through it. If you can’t find something to enjoy in Paddington 2, if at no point does it make your heart swell with positive emotion, then you’re probably dead. Not just dead inside, you’re probably an actual corpse.
In Paddington 2, Paddington the Bear has successfully integrated into the Brown family, and his London community at large, and still no one finds talking bears at all odd. Paddington (voiced by woodland creature Ben Whishaw) is essentially an emotional support animal, listening to everyone’s problems and complaints, and doing what he can to help those around him. But he’s also excited about his Aunt Lucy’s 100th birthday, and wants to buy her a pop-up book as a present. But the Browns’ neighbor, washed-up actor Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant), steals the book, which is also a treasure map, naturally, and Paddington is framed and ends up in jail. There, he befriends a cook, Knuckles (Brendan Gleeson), and participates in an escape plan.
It’s all daring escapes and heroic rescues, and it’s all so very silly. But it’s so sincerely silly, and so FUN, that it’s impossible to resist Paddington, the Browns, and the general air of whimsy that pervades the film. It’s not as mannered and overtly staged as, say, A Series of Unfortunate Events (Netflix version, not Jim Carrey movie), but there is a similar strain of whimsicality in Paddington 2, especially with Phoenix Buchanan, who can’t help but echo dastardly ex-actor Count Olaf. And my GOD is Hugh Grant fantastic! We can make jokes about “Paddington Bear 2”, but Grant is really INTO IT and this is a great performance, like a seriously hall-of-fame performance from him. (Lainey: cut to Duana DYING right now.) Grant leans into his intrinsic ham and theatricality and is obviously having a ball with Phoenix Buchanan’s mustache-twirling and all his disguises. And the way he says “Bheah” when addressing Paddington is DELICIOUS.
Paddington 2 is a perfect antidote to the winter blues, or just our nightmarish reality in general. It’s charming and funny and lovely to look at—Paddington’s eyes are still taxidermy marble nightmares, but generally the effects are really good—and as cheesy as it is to describe something as “heartwarming”, goddammit, it’s heartwarming. This is genuinely a film for all ages, and a ripping adventure, like your favorite childhood book come to life. (If your favorite childhood book happened to be a Paddington the Bear book, all the better.) It’s a shame Warner Brothers stranded it in January with no real push, because a movie this wonderful deserves to be seen. Don’t sleep on this delightful movie, let Paddington 2 warm the cockles of your cold, cold heart.