Almost three years ago to the day since a little brown bear with a big red hat swapped the rain forests of Peru for the leafy suburbs of London – prompting the punchline: does a bear flit in the hoods? – director Paul King and co-writer Simon Farnaby have followed up the former’s feel-good, family-friendly crowd-pleaser Paddington with an equally charming, ticks-all-the-boxes romp.
The premise is simple: Aunt Lucy is approaching her 100th birthday and Paddy (voiced by Ben Whishaw) has spied an ideal present in the window of an antique shop run by the eccentric owner Samuel Gruber (Jim Broadbent) – a pop-up book of old London town penned by the legendary circus owner Madame Kozlova.
In order to pay for it, pennies are earned through a series of part-time jobs which test the young bear’s newly acquired skills, not to mention the patience of the customers he ill-serves. One of whom is a stern-faced judge (Tom Conti) whose request for a short, back and sides is met with a reverse mohican. Another is an Asian doctor (Sanjeev Bhaskar) whose windows are left shining like a shilling courtesy of an impromptu tums and bums workout.
The best laid schemes of mice and bears, however, gang agley when the pop-up book is stolen by a cravat-wearing ham in the shape of Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant) who has swapped Shakespeare for dog food commercials. The reason for the theft? Each of the twelve London landmarks featured in Madame Kozlova’s leather-bound publication contain clues to the whereabouts of her hidden fortune.
But as Phoenix chases said fortune, Paddy faces the misfortune of a ten-year stretch at Her Majesty’s pleasure after being wrongfully imprisoned for “grand theft and grievous barberly harm”. Thankfully, his fellow inmates come to the rescue when Knuckles “with a capital N” McGinty (Brendan Gleeson) hatches an escape plan to give the old ham a roasting.
Though the heart-strings are seldom plucked and belly laughs are few and far between, the pace like the score by the Oscar-winning composer of Atonement, Dario Marianelli, is snappy; the Laurel and Hardy-esque visual gags are a constant stream of marmalade-infused merriment; and the wordplay is delightfully silly and deftly subtle as exemplified by the front page splash of the prison newspaper Hard Times:Get out of jail free card not legally binding.
What is legally binding, however, is the sentence eventually imposed on Phoenix Buchanan who along with a “bunch of pink flamingos” entertains “a captive audience” of fellow inmates with a tap-dancing showstopper during the closing credits which is camper than a Liberace Christmas special. The moral of the story crystallised in Aunt Lucy’s poetic advice to young Paddy: “if we’re kind and polite the world will be right.”
Video courtesy of: StudiocanalUK