‘Paddington 2’ review: Pure unadulterated joy
Paul King’s Paddington 2 ends with a spritely song-and-dance number worthy of a spot in London’s prestigious West End.
What’s particularly hilarious about the number is that it is performed not just by hardened convicts but by the fact that those supposedly vicious criminals are all strutting their way down the prison’s prettified steel stairs in matching pink-and-black prison garb. As a madcap finale to a film that delights in all things wistfully peculiar, it’s just absolutely fabulous.
Moral of the story
The moral of the story however is that it all the unabashed joy and pleasure of that rousing farewell began with one red sock left by an absent-minded but the well-meaning titular Peruvian bear in washing machine full of striped black-and-white uniforms.
The comeuppance for the bear’s slight error are dagger-like stares and vicious taunts from his co-convicts, now donning pastel-hued overalls that could’ve retailed for quite a sum of money in a Paul Smith store. From there, the bear rises the ranks, earns the trust of the prison’s powerful head honcho with his marmalade sandwich, turns the cafeteria into a dainty boulangerie, and even has the once stern and stringent warden recite bedtime stories to put all the restless criminals to bed.
Sure, it all seems played for chuckles as King’s garish visuals pit rough edges with colors more suited for cupcakes or jellybeans.
However, a closer look at the prison’s delightful journey in the hands of an overly optimistic bear should result in something more profound. The two Paddington films have always championed the other and this sequel, which finds itself in a world that is slowly being ripped apart by intolerance and isolationism, feels alarmingly relevant. With all the negativity in the world, we’ve come to resemble spent and soiled clothes in need of a dash of pink that may come from a red sock, an oddity that we should come to embrace rather than ostracize.
King’s film, while navigating an intricate narrative involving the stealing of a pop-up book and the frame-up of the much-beloved furry protagonist, keeps everything jolly, proper and courteous. There is not a whiff of vulgarity or divisiveness, just good-natured entertainment by way of wit and slapstick.
More sophisticated than it feels
Paddington 2 is adamantly a film made for children.
However, it actually is more sophisticated than it feels. It is unabashed in its influences, with the bear getting sucked into a room of cogs and gears the same way Charlie Chaplin did in Modern Times (1936), with a hardened criminal (Brendan Gleeson) tattooing his name on his knuckles the same way Robert Mitchum tattooed the words Love and Hate on his in Charles Laughton’s The Night of the Hunter, with an aesthetic that could have belonged in a Wes Anderson film.
The entire caper around London where clues are gathered from major landmarks is a trope straight out of the Alfred Hitchcock playbook, and Hugh Grant, who impressively plays the film’s master-of-disguise antagonist, is reminiscent of Vincent Price in Douglas Hickox’ Theater of Blood (1973).
Unlike most other children’s films that seem content in providing diversion to immature minds, Paddington 2 is rife with content that would make its impressionable viewers eager for more. The film is bound to make children swoon with laughter now, but I imagine that a few years later, when the bear’s silly escapade with an electric clipper already fails to make them laugh, they’d start unearthing all the film’s influences and be enchanted by a far more diverse cinema.
What can I say? Paddington is a bear that simply keeps on giving.
Paddington 2 is essential viewing.
If the fact that it is Xian Lim and not Ben Whishaw is preventing you from indulging in the numerous pleasures of this film, then purge all your worries. Lim doesn’t make a dent on the bear’s impenetrable charisma. There is so much more here to enjoy. – Rappler.com
Francis Joseph Cruz litigates for a living and writes about cinema for fun. The first Filipino movie he saw in the theaters was Carlo J. Caparas' Tirad Pass. Since then, he's been on a mission to find better memories with Philippine cinema.