The odds were stacked against the first Paddington film. An adaptation of an almost unbearably (geddit?) quaint book series, it could have gone colossal, and loud, and clichéd, becoming one more soulless Hollywood attempt to turn nostalgia into big bucks.
Instead, it was one of the best films of 2014; an intensely loveable romp that never sacrificed heart for the sake of big screen spectacle. Which only meant the odds were further stacked against Paddington 2. Director Paul King pulled off a surprise hit with his original; however was he meant to replicate the success for a sequel?
The answer is by – contrary to the logic that usually dictates sequels – going even smaller. Rather than attempting to up the stakes, with Paddington 2, King has doubled down on his first film’s warmth, and gentleness, and joy. Ostensibly a caper film in which Paddington (Ben Whishaw) finds himself wrongly imprisoned for the theft of a rare art book-cum-treasure map, the sequel is, at its big beating heart, a film about familial bonds, and about how radical it can be simply to be kind.
Paddington 2 is not interested in expanding an already perfectly-painted world, or by threatening the bonds between Paddington and his adopted family, The Browns. It doesn’t tear things apart; it once again gets down to the infinitely admirable task of putting things back together.
We live in distinctly troubled times. Paddington 2 feels like the antidote to them.
As with the first film, a lot of Paddington 2’s success rides on the furry shoulders of its beary protagonist. Every single one of Paddington’s marmalade-stained hairs moves and waves on their own, and he is both recognisably animal and yet heartwarmingly human. And that’s not even to mention Whishaw’s voice work – so perfectly does he encompass the role that it’s hard to remember that Colin Firth was the first choice to bring the bear to life.
Credit must also go to King’s keen visual eye. As with the first film, Paddington 2 is littered with joyous visual tricks, from a shot that sees a diorama come bursting into life, to a thrilling chase through nighttime London. King cares; nothing in his film is half-hearted, or skimmed over.
For that reason, although it would be easy to dismiss Paddington 2 as a quaint curio – the cinematic form of penny candy; enjoyable for exactly the time it’s being chewed on and no longer – it has a real sticking power. It’s more than a diversion, or just a way to keep your children quiet for a few hours. It has the power to fill you up with joy like a cup. We live in distinctly troubled times. Paddington 2 feels like the antidote to them.
Paddington 2 hits Australian cinemas Thursday December 21.