‘Padding­ton 2’ bear ne­ces­sity

De­li­ciously funny Hugh Grant makes lov­able bear’s se­quel im­pos­si­ble to re­sist

The Herald (South Africa) - - LEISURE - (8) PADDING­TON 2. Di­rected by: Paul King. Star­ring: Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Hugh Grant, Ben Whishaw, Bren­dan Glee­son, Julie Wal­ters, Jim Broad­bent, Peter Ca­paldi, Joanna Lum­ley, Noah Tay­lor, Jes­sica Hynes, Madeleine Har­ris, Eileen Atkins, Ben Mill

PADDING­TON was un­com­monly charm­ing and Padding­ton 2 is very nearly as good. That said, for about nine min­utes, you may have minor con­cerns. Will this film merely coast on the cosy lov­abil­ity that made its fore­bear (sorry) such a joy? How can the bar be nudged up and who’s go­ing to do it?

Ev­ery­one’s favourite ur­sine Peru­vian im­mi­grant left his de­but in such a warm and happy place that there’s a nag­ging lack of comic fric­tion as we dive back in.

The Brown fam­ily, liv­ing in their perfect mul­ti­cul­tural haven of Wind­sor Gar­dens, are try­ing out some new ec­cen­tric hob­bies, are they?

For­give us, mak­ers of Padding­ton 2, for a light tap­ping of feet.

Im­pa­tience is dis­pelled for good as the plot kicks in and it turns out – with all due re­spect to re­turn­ing leads Hugh Bonneville and Sally Hawkins, not to men­tion Ben Whishaw’s cud­dly vo­cal work – to be all about the guest stars.

The first set-piece to get dear, dis­as­ter-prone Padding­ton spin­ning from the rafters in­volves a bar­ber­shop, Tom Conti as a pompous judge and a set of vi­brat­ing clip­pers.

We start to feel in safe hands once again, but it takes this burst of skit­ter­ing chaos to do it.

And then Hugh Grant ar­rives. Es­sen­tially fill­ing Nicole Kid­man’s shoes as this in­stal­ment’s star vil­lain, his role as a de­li­ciously self-ab­sorbed West End act­ing legend called Phoenix Buchanan is the gift that keeps on giv­ing.

Through his machi­na­tions – it’s all to do with an an­tique pop-up book Padding­ton cov­ets, which con­tains the clues, quite with­out him know­ing, to a long-lost trea­sure stash – the poor bear is framed for rob­bery and sen­tenced by a vin­dic­tive Conti to 10 years in jail.

His let­ters to beloved, 100-year-old Aunt Lucy sud­denly have a mourn­ful bent, though he does find time, by way of sil­ver lin­ings, to praise the prison’s im­pos­ing Vic­to­rian ar­chi­tec­ture and tip-top se­cu­rity.

Re­turn­ing di­rec­tor Paul King, in ca­hoots with new co-writer Si­mon Farn­aby, proves that the crack­pot in­spi­ra­tion that pow­ered his first one was no fluke. Prison is ex­actly the place for Padding­ton, in the sense that his un­der­stated melan­choly makes him seem even more adorable be­hind bars.

The shadow of his out­sider sta­tus re­turns and there’s a whole new set of char­ac­ters to win over with his quaint, flum­moxed ways.

Be­fore long the re­fec­tory’s ter­ri­fy­ing chef (a wild-eyed Bren­dan Glee­son) has been tamed and be­friended through the sim­ple power of mar­malade. Padding­ton’s fel­low in­mates, mean­while, stop griz­zling, start skip­ping and go on to ex­er­cise pre­vi­ously unguessed tal­ents in con­fec­tionery-mak­ing.

Our fash­ion-con­scious bear, for one, thinks their new pink cov­er­alls (his fault) are ac­tu­ally rather fetch­ing. Point: Padding­ton.

Back at Wind­sor Gar­dens, the Browns run around to es­tab­lish their brother’s in­no­cence, with only one toxic, get-off-my-lawn neigh­bour wish­ing he’d stay be­hind lock and key. Be­yond Conti, who lifts his walk-on role with gusto, and the briefly hi­lar­i­ous Eileen Atkins as a dotty for­tune teller, the film gets all its big­gest laughs from Glee­son and Grant, do­ing vari­a­tions – but sub­lime ones – on the grumpy-gi­ant rou­tine and the vain git rou­tine they ha­bit­u­ally ex­cel at.

Grant’s role, a prime con­tender for his fun­ni­est ever, is a bliss­ful op­por­tu­nity for him to ham it up, whether de­liv­er­ing Shake­spearean ora­tions to his own wigs, try­ing to sell a be­mused Hawkins on his one-man show or dress­ing as a nun to in­fil­trate St Paul’s.

If you can re­sist the sight of Hugh Grant dressed as a dog and sam­pling dog-food on a glee­fully tatty TV spot – star­dom isn’t what it was for Phoenix Buchanan – you’ll prob­a­bly be able to re­sist Padding­ton 2. But it will re­ally take some ef­fort.

BEAR ON A MIS­SION: Ben Whishaw re­turns to voice the lov­able Padding­ton Bear

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