How do you follow up one of the most well-received family films of the 21st Century? How do you even try to succeed something so abundantly rich in heart, humour and humanity – not to mention respect for its source material – and something so unexpectedly perfect in almost every way, the mere fact of its existence feels like a miracle of impossible-to-replicate aligning stars?
You make something even better.
If you missed Paddington 2 during its theatrical run and are feeling a little sceptical of how much acclaim it received, well here’s the home media release to hammer the point home with another glut of glowing reviews. Quite simply, director and co-writer Paul King has looked into every individual aspect of the original and asked just a single question: ‘Could this be improved upon?’ If the answer was ‘yes’, then the improvement has been made – and it has been an improvement in every instance. Nicole Kidman’s villainess from the first film just a little too frightening for the kids? Get Hugh Grant in instead, and cast him as a foppish, larger than life self-parody that will entertain both the smaller and the longer in the tooth audience members to equal and extensive degrees.
If, on the other hand, no enhancement was possible, then King has found an even more magical substitute to enthral you with instead. So where the prologue from the first film was unimprovable, here’s a shortened variant with a bit you didn’t know you needed to see, and here’s an extra glimpse of Aunt Lucy in a sequence so extraordinary and so audacious it’s astonishing that it feels so natural and works so spectacularly well.
But that’s what Paddington 2 does, in every sequence and with every beat and performance. It’s joyous and impossibly satisfying – and even when you think you’ve been charmed as far as is humanly possible, it saves one last improbable but entirely logical surprise for the very end. You’ll melt.
King’s plot – Paddington chooses a present for Aunt Lucy’s forthcoming 100th birthday, but has to take a job in order to afford it, and then is framed for its theft when Grant’s over-the-hill actor realises it’s a treasure map and steals it – serves almost as a metaphor for the original film’s success, the sequel casting even the better imitators into the shadows and the bear’s incarceration proving how the least likely of potential admirers have fallen just as much in love with this new version of the character. King sets so many plates spinning you stop spotting them – until he catches every one in the spectacular final act.
This is a StudioCanal film, so it doesn’t come with the wide-ranging and child-friendly plethora of extra features you’d get with a Pixar release. What’s here is more than interesting enough for curious parents though, and certainly worth investigating.
If there’s even a smidgen of wonder in your soul, no matter how young or old you are, this is a film you need to own. It’s a genuine triumph and delight.
Extras: director’s commentary, Hugh Grant musical video, BAFTA Q&A, The Challenges of Making the Film
PADDINGTON 2 / CERT: PG / DIRECTOR: PAUL KING / SCREENPLAY: PAUL KING, SIMON FARNABY / STARRING: BEN WISHAW, HUGH GRANT, BRENDAN GLEESON, HUGH BONNEVILLE, SALLY HAWKINS, JULIE WALTERS, JIM BROADBENT / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW