Release Date(s)2017 (September 24, 2018)
Studio(s)Warner Home Video
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: B-
In creating a CGI character, the biggest obstacle to overcome is convincing the audience he is an actual flesh-and-blood creature. In Paddington 2, director Paul King succeeds in bringing to life the cuddly bear created in the books by Michael Bond.
Paddington 2 takes place several years after the events in 2014’s Paddington. Paddington lives with the Brown family in Windsor Gardens and has become a familiar and beloved member of the community. Henry (Hugh Bonneville) has turned to yoga and is in a mid-life crisis when he’s passed over for a promotion. Mary (Sally Hawkins) has been training to swim across the English Channel.
With his Aunt Lucy (voice of Imelda Staunton) approaching her 100th birthday, Paddington is looking for the perfect gift. He finds just the thing at the antiques shop of Mr. Gruber (Jim Broadbent) – a beautiful pop-up book of 1920’s London. To earn the money to buy it, Paddington tries his hand at several odd jobs, none of which turns out well.
The plot thickens when egocentric actor Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant) learns that the book contains clues to the whereabouts of a treasure trove of jewelry. He schemes to steal the book and throw suspicion on Paddington. The innocent bear is imprisoned and must figure out how to clear his name.
Once again, Ben Wishaw provides the voice of Paddington with a smooth gentleness and that ever-so-delightful British accent. The bear’s calm voice and ingrained social grace combined with his cuddly appearance make him charming and endearing.
Hugh Grant, as the film’s comic villain Phoenix Buchanan, takes full advantage of broad mannerisms, witty dialogue, and numerous disguises to deliver a performance that steals the picture. It looks as if he’s having a ball in the role and is completely uninhibited in his portrayal. Harking back to vaudeville, screwball comedy, and farce, Grant milks his scenes for maximum comic effect. This is the kind of role when over-the-top is the order of the day. Phoenix is the villain you just love to watch as he goes about his dastardly – but kid-friendly – misdeeds.
Though the plot is simple, as in most of the original stories, director King has provided it with scale, visual pizzazz, and lots of slapstick comedy, which should appeal to both children and adults. Paddington himself is so charmingly rendered that kids should love him. Unlike many animated characters, Paddington is soft-spoken, pleasant, and always extremely polite. In fact, he’s the most even-tempered character in the movie. There is a sweet tone throughout, even when Paddington gets into some adventurous predicaments.
The Blu-ray is presented in 1080p high definition. Aspect ratio for the widescreen release is 2.4:1. Colors are vivid and detail is excellent. Paddington’s fur is remarkably realistic, with the simulation of wind gently ruffling the hairs on his face or blowing them wildly in the wind. Water, difficult to create with CGI in earlier films, is realistically rendered as it cascades over rocks in a river’s rapids. Lighting highlights include the warmly lit interiors and near overexposures to suggest brilliant sunlight. CGI effects are executed expertly and blend flawlessly with the live actors.
Sound mixing is precise, with dialogue on the Dolby Atmos track centered with sound effects coming through on the left and right, providing a full surround sound experience. Ambient sound details, such as footsteps, the clanking of kitchen cutlery, pages of the pop-up book turning, rushing rapids, and Paddington’s sighs are subtle to enhance story telling.
Bonus materials on the 2-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack include an audio commentary, several brief featurettes, and a music video. A digital copy is enclosed.
Paddington: The Bear Truth – Cast members and director Paul King describe Paddington as the most stable character in the film, who has a “tremendous effect on the residents of Windsor Gardens.” The bear is the heart of the film. Hugh Grant is shown performing his train chase sequence in front of a green screen, and Sally Hawkins is shown playing a scene to no one, Paddington being edited in later.
The Magic Mystery of Paddington’s Pop-Up Book – Director Paul King says that the pop-up book idea was intended for the first movie but not used. The book suggests the art and design of 1920s pop-up books featuring the great sights of London, and comes to life as Paddington imagines his Aunt Lucy coming to visit him.
The Browns and Paddington: A Special Bond – Cast members describe what’s happening in the lives of each member of the Brown family.
The (Once) Famous Faces of Phoenix Buchanan – Hugh Grant’s input into the creation of his character involves tweaking and improvising dialogue, helping select Phoenix’s dozen different looks, and playing the role for full comic effect.
How to Make a Marmalade Sandwich – An actual recipe for making marmalade from simple ingredients is interspersed with scenes from the movie.
Music Video – Hugh Grant and a chorus of prisoners in black and pink prison uniforms perform Rain on the Roof in an elaborate Busby Berkeley-style production number with umbrellas, staircase choreography, overhead camera shots, a Rockettes-inspired chorus line, and a confetti shower. It’s reminiscent of the Prisoners of Love number from The Producers.
Commentary – director/co-writer Paul King discusses keeping the story simple while expanding its scale for a “larger cinematic experience.” He was looking for the next chapter in Paddington’s story and didn’t want to do a retread of the first movie. He received inventive input from the actors, especially Hugh Grant. He states the philosophy of the film: if we stick together, everything will turn out OK. The epilogue illustrates that the plot is ongoing as Paddington comes to realize that his kindness is responsible for binding the community together. The scrapbook under the final credits shows what happens to the characters and keeps the film from being bloated with an additional 4 to 6 minutes of story telling.
– Dennis Seuling