Paddington 2 (PG)
Starring Ben Whishaw, Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Hugh Grant
Directed by Paul King
In this insanely likeable sequel to the 2014 surprise hit, Paddington, the duffel coat-wearing, marmalade-loving Paddington Bear (again voiced by Ben Whishaw) is back for more shenanigans, this time involving a magical pop-up book. The latter, a present Padds has been saving up to buy for his Aunt Lucy’s 100th birthday, turns out to be a treasure map coveted by Hugh Grant’s scene-jacking baddie, Phoenix Buchanan, a has-been theatre thesp-turned-dog food spokesman.
Phoenix steals the book and pins the crime on Paddington, who’s then sentenced to jail. Paddington behind bars? That went dark real fast. Not really, the movie is still a lark. The prison sequences — including an inventive break out — are lifted from Wes Anderson’s playbook, more mischievous than menacing. Like its predecessor, Paddington 2 is goofy, picturesque, endearing, hopeful, and infused with a timely message about inclusivity and acceptance; you’d have to be incurably cynical not to embrace it with open arms. In other words: I’d rather sit through Paddington 2 than Daddy’s Home 2. (***1/2)