Wandering round London in his little outfits, you just couldn’t get any cuter than this new Paddington. Ben Whishaw voices the bear with an irresistible optimism that sees the good in all things, even as he’s banged up in prison for a crime he didn’t commit just trying to find the right birthday present to send his Aunt Lucy, back in Peru.
Somehow, amid the fairy-tale, kids’ pop-up book picture of London (nods to Wes Anderson here, and Michel Gondry there), director Paul King manages to avoid cutesiness and twee tonal sentimentality, even as Paddington wins over hardened inmate Knuckles McGinty (Brendan Gleeson).
The madcap plot involving Hugh Grant as a demented actor in a variety of costumes and locations fits together delightfully without ever feeling over-workshopped, finding time for a story arc for almost every character, from Hugh Bonneville’s mid-life Mr Brown, to young Jonathan Brown, Julie Walters’ Mrs Bird and even Jessica Hynes’ paper seller.
In one of those rare sequels that might just be better than the first movie, I was also reminded of Elf, as there are genuinely funny lines, delivered with glee, and more than a hint of Capra-esque innocence as Paddington spreads his unruffled, furry cheer around like so much marmelade.
It’s not a cool film but it has lots of heart, a decent message about inclusion and acceptance, and, like that marmalade, it’s really very sweet, moreish, but you also know when you’ve had enough.