Hugh Grant in Paddington 2

Hugh Grant in Paddington 2

She can't make it to London, so Paddington hopes to bring London to her. Forget the fact that he's a talking bear from Darkest Peru. Paddington is one of the most beloved animation films of all time and usually people don't prefer the second part of a very beloved film unless Marvel.

"The sequel to the 2014 picture turns out to be every bit as deft, witty and, yes, moving as the first one". After all, Paddington could have become just another bumbling, idiotic CGI creation getting into noisy mishaps, in the mode of Stuart Little or (shudder) Alvin and the Chipmunks.

"Paddington 2", the charming and amusing follow-up to the charming and amusing and money-making 2014 "Paddington", opens with a surprise: A back story for the fuzzy, little, good-natured, oh-so-polite young bear who, in the first film, made his way from the peaceful jungles of Peru to the bustle of London, and a whole new way of life as part of the Brown family. Ask any parent whose kids have gotten hooked on the never-ending stream of Minions and Smurfs how horrifying the prospect of a children's sequel can be, since the target audience will gobble it up no matter how lazy the construction is. Last, but not least: although there's (sadly) no post-credits scene where Paddington is recruited to join the Avengers initiative by Nick Fury, you would do best to not leave the theater the moment that the end credits on Paddington 2 start rolling.

Where should Paddington's next adventure take place? Bond, who died in 2016, couldn't have asked for a better send-off. One day Paddington, visiting the gift shop of Mr. Gruber () in search of a birthday present for his aunt, stumbles upon a book filled with gorgeous pop-up illustrations of London landmarks. In a wonderfully realized sequence, Paddington imagines his aunt arriving on a pop-up paper boat in the pages of the book itself, and him on the docks there to greet her.

Alas, the real flesh-and-blood London soon rescinds its welcome.

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Framed for the book's theft, Paddington ends up doing hard time. Peter Capaldi's odious neighborhood watchman, delighted to have cause for trumpeting his bigoted worldview, spits out Paddington's adopted surname -"Brown"- like the slur he wants it to be.

"Could it be that Hugh Grant was born to play a villainous dandy in a kid's movie?" But the mix-up still sends Paddington to the joint, a disconcerting fate for those of us who'd assumed this curious but dim-witted bear was legally a minor.

In the free world, Grant has a great time lampooning eccentric actor stereotypes and donning a series of disguises as he tries to follow the pop-up book's clues to the treasure, and the Brown family has just enough going on in their personal lives to keep them interesting without distracting from the film's primary trajectory. Well, in addition to introducing a bunch of new neighbors in Windsor Gardens, there's two major characters that help spice things up: Hugh Grant's aging and extremely vain actor, Phoenix Buchanan; and Brendan Gleeson's hardened criminal Knuckles McGinty.

The star of the story is entirely animated though, and the Downton Abbey star was keen to talk about how they deal with that on set: 'As far as I'm concerned the bear is real, sometimes he doesn't come out of his trailer because he's on a marmalade hit'.

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