Courtesy of StudioCanal

Courtesy of StudioCanal

The Second Paddington Is Filled With Slapstick and Spirit

And a lot of well-known faces.

If marmalade sandwiches are back on the menu, it can only mean the Paddington sequel has arrived. The 2014 original, a live-action film with a computer-generated bear, was as warm ‘n fuzzy as its main character. If the sequel has a few odd ideas—Paddington spends almost half the movie in jail?—it still supplies a happy ration of kid-friendly slapstick, grown-up jokes, and a batch of the most recognizable actors in Britain.

Paddington (voiced again by Ben Whishaw) is settled in the London home of his human family (headed by Shape of Water star Sally Hawkins and Downton Abbey guy Hugh Bonneville). When the bear wants to buy a rare book as a birthday present for his ursine aunt back in Peru, it means he’ll have to earn money—an idea that allows the filmmakers to create slapstick routines around Paddington’s experiences as a window-washer and barber. I suspect director Paul King studied some silent-movie comedians for these sequences, because they’re peppered with sight gags and split-second timing. Our hero goes to prison because of mistaken identity, a twist that introduces us to Brendan Gleeson as a fearsome jailhouse chef (one of the film’s funniest performances). The lesson here: If only all penitentiaries would serve homemade marmalade sandwiches, we’d probably have a smaller rate of recidivism.

Paddington 2 is good fun throughout, but the person having (and causing) the most fun is Hugh Grant. He plays a washed-up actor named Phoenix Buchanan—reduced to barnstorming in carnivals and selling dog food on TV—who becomes Paddington’s greatest nemesis. When actors make comedy look effortless they are always underrated, and Grant has been underrated for years. This plummy role allows him to spoof showbiz itself, and he looks like he’s having a blast (“I am tickled the deepest shade of shrimp,” he declares, a phrase I vow to work into my everyday conversation). Other deft performers making the most of their chances include Jim Broadbent, Julie Walters, and departing Dr. Who Peter Capaldi.

There’s great charm here, but also a kind of manifesto for optimism. Goodness is its own reward in Paddington 2, and the movie throws its rare darts at an anti-immigrant loudmouth. I recently came down hard on Darkest Hour, a hammy movie about Winston Churchill, as “a TV commercial for the indomitable British spirit.” For a far more engaging embodiment of the indomitable British spirit, I nominate the Paddington films. In this dark hour, best follow the bear. Opens Friday Jan. 12 at various area theaters; rated PG

More in Film

Cate Blanchett, Owen Vaccaro, and Jack Black get their kiddie horror on in The House 
With a Clock in Its Walls. Photo courtesy Storyteller Distribution Co.
Tick, Tick… Boo!

Jack Black and Cate Blanchett can’t prevent the spooky kids’ movie The House with a Clock in Its Walls from feeling a bit insincere.

If you see the poster art for Mandy and are surprised it’s wild, it’s your own damn fault.
Totally Uncaging the Cage

Nicolas Cage taps into his manical best for the acid-trip fantasy revenge film, ‘Mandy.’

Robert Redford says goodbye with The Old Man & the Gun. Photo by Eric Zachanowich/Twentieth Century Fox
Fall Movie Preview 2018

From Oscar hopefuls to broad comedies, here’s what the season’s film slate has to offer.

John Cho logs on to find his missing daughter in Searching. Photo by Sebastian Baron
Social (Media) Thriller

While not escapist fare, Searching ‘s story of a father searching for his daughter online does feel authentically of the internet.

Regina Hall (center) leads the Double Whammies crew in Support the Girls. Photo courtesy Magnolia Pictures
Character Meets Cleavage in ‘Support the Girls’

Don’t be fooled by Hooters-esque facade. The Regina Hall-led film is a warm, funny, and communal.

Kelly Macdonald, Irrfan Khan, and director Marc Turtletaub put together the pieces on the set of Puzzle. 
Photo by Linda Kallerus/Sony Pictures Classics
Can ‘Puzzle’ Fit in the New Oscars Landscape?

The understated indie boasts a fabulous performance by Kelly Macdonald, but does that matter in the Best Popular Film era?

Teens bond at a gay conversion camp in The Miseducation of Cameron Post. Photo courtesy Beachside Films
The Conversion Immersion of ‘The Miseducation of Cameron Post’

A strong young ensemble helps director Desiree Akhavan artfully takedown conversion therapy.

The ostentatious takes center stage in Generation Wealth. Photo by Lauren Greenfield
Show Me the Money

The documentary ‘Generation Wealth’ attempts to show greed’s shallowness, but somewhat loses focus.

Tom Cruise hangs onto his action hero bonafides with ‘Mission: Impossible — Fallout.’ Photo courtesy Paramount Pictures/Skydance
Impossibly Not Getting Old

Tom Cruise and his action franchise remain sharp in ‘Mission: Impossible — Fallout.’

Joaquin Phoenix and Jonah Hill lead a hefty cast in <em></em><em>Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot</em>. Photo by Scott Patrick Green/Amazon Studios
Steady Footing

Joaquin Phoenix and Jonah Hill anchor ‘Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot,’ Gus Van Sant’s biopic about a quadriplegic cartoonist.

Kayla (Elsie Fisher) stays glued to her screens in ‘Eighth Grade.’ Photo by Linda Kallerus/A24
Embracing the Naturalistic Awkwardness of ‘Eighth Grade’

Writer/director Bo Burnham and star Elsie Fisher discuss making and living one of the year’s best films.

Golden Goal

On the Seventh Day takes an atypical sports movie approach while addressing immigrant issues.