Family friendly stand alone continuing adventure of an anthropomorphized bear living in London who lives by the motto: "If we're kind and polite the world will be right".
I knew nothing about the Paddington stories going in to see this sequel with my son-in-law and grandsons. I have not even seen the first Paddington movie. I was immediately charmed by the gentle, naive kindness of the titled bear and his adoptive human family, including Julie Waters (Mrs. Weasley from Harry Potter), Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water), and Hugh Bonneville (from Downton Abbey).
Paddington is voiced by Ben Whishaw (Q from the rebooted James Bond) who brings a lovely ingenuous confidence to the little talking ursine creature. Paddington is now a beloved integral part of his community who performs small kindnesses as a matter of course throughout the movie: cleaning a grouchy neighbor's windows gratis which affords the neighbor the notice of a lovely woman; reminding an absentminded neighbor to remember his keys before his door shuts on him; making lunch for a friend. Through these seemingly insignificant acts of random kindness Paddington manages to help knit these otherwise at-odds neighbors into a community of friends. And this, I think, is the point of the movie. The rest is just McGuffins and window dressing to demonstrate the importance of the small actions which can mean so much to those around you.
I am reminded of St. Theresa of Liseux' book on the philosophy of The Little Way. That one does not need to be a celebrity or build a cathedral or die in a gladiatorial ring in order to become a saint. That for most of us, who are blessed with never being called to such sacrifices, it is our calling to offer all the little opportunities that come our way as the path to sainthood: opening a door for a stranger, smiling to the curmudgeon even when it seems they do not appreciate your offer of friendship, enduring with patience the unexpected suffering that does come your way…like being sentenced to prison for 10 years for a theft you tried to stop, not commit.
Such is the set up for this Paddington story. Paddington wishes to give his beloved Aunt Lucy a special birthday gift. So he goes to the eccentric and slightly dotty but goodhearted Mr. Gruber (Jim Broadbent of Moulin Rouge and Slughorn of the Harry Potter franchise). He decides on a rare but expensive book which he strives to earn through odd jobs but which is soon stolen by the unctous and self-absorbed Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant, who creates the most amusingly horrible egotist since Kenneth Branagh's Lockhart in Harry Potter.) Paddington is accused of the crime and sentenced to prison where he befriends, again through small kindnesses, some of the inmates. (Don't try this at home kids – cute in a story but…..) His fellow prisoners include: Brendan Gleeson (Mad Eye Moody AGAIN from Harry Potter), and Noah Taylor (the Dad from Charlie and the Chocolate factory). Rounding out the cast is Tom Conti (veteran comedian of a number of quirky British comedies including Reuben, Reuben and Saving Grace) as a grouchy judge with a grudge against the occasionally hapless bear, Michael Gambon as the narrator (the replacement Professor Dumbledore from…you guessed it, Harry Potter), and Peter Capaldi (the last male Dr. Who before Jody Whittaker) who has the unenviable task of being the only member of the community to take an instant dislike to our little furry friend.
Paddington's human family continues to believe in Paddington's innocence and the balance of the movie spends its time digging up evidence to free him. It's funny, charming, innocent fun and shows the benefits of striving to be….polite and kind – along with courageous, loyal, honest, steadfast, optimistic, hard working, and just plain nice.
I, my son-in-law, both of my grandsons, and the many other children in the theater and their parents, enjoyed the movie thoroughly. Don't feel like you need to even see the first one. Paddington the second is well worth your time and, I am even inspired to paraphrase a quote from my all time favorite movie – It's a Wonderful Life: "Each bear's life touches so many other lives," and when he isn't around the community of friends he has created will rally to help him, which, in itself, is a brilliant virtue to watch enacted with humor and affection for their source material.
It's quite nice to see a movie which everyone in the family can enjoy.