IslingtonTribune

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Duffel trouble in Paddington 2

09 November, 2017 — By Dan Carrier

PADDINGTON 2
Directed by Paul King
Certificate PG
☆☆☆☆

MICHAEL Bond came from an altogether kinder place. Along with Wombles creator Elizabeth Beresford and Ivor The Engine father Oliver Postgate, he belongs to a time when children’s stories, adapted for TV, reflect kindly on the period they were written.

It may be misty-eyed nostalgia (I only need to hear the wonderful ensemble playing the Paddington theme tune to go a bit wobbly) but these programmes seem to represent something rather special about the values of our society that was torn away during the Thatcher years and we haven’t got back. Ivor the Engine is loaded with political parables about the post-war settlement, The Wombles were environmentalists, while Paddington espouses simple values of being nice to one another.

So it was with trepidation that I watched the first Paddington film – and while it was a little twee and had a strangely sanitised London, it carried a strong message about immigration, about acceptance, and about celebrating a Britain where people looked out for each another.

Paddington 2, happily, does something similar: it uses the vehicle of a popular children’s film to ask us to be a little kinder – and that, in this current climate, is no bad thing.

The Browns of Windsor Gardens played by Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Samuel Joslin and Madeleine Harris

We pick up the story as Paddington (Ben Whishaw provides voice, clever CGI creates the bear) is now happily settled with his adopted family, the Browns, of Windsor Gardens.

Things look good for the little furry chap, surrounded by loving family and friends.

The bear decides to send his Aunt Lucy over in Peru a present for her birthday and finds in Mr Gruber’s (Jim Broadbent) antique shop a delightful pop-up book featuring London places. A perfect present, as Aunt Lucy had always wanted to see the city.

He sets out to earn the money needed to buy the book – but it has also attracted the attention of his neighbour, the famous thespian Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant), who wants to get hold of it for much less altruistic reasons.

There are moments where you think we have reached peak faux London as if this is an attempt to sell the city to tourists. It also smacks a little of the “Highgate Mum” syndrome, painting London as some kind of middle-class utopia. But if you can ignore the awful Gail’s bakery brunch set vibe, there is plenty to enjoy.

Grant’s turn as chief baddie is bring-the-house-down wonderful. It isn’t simply just the good sportsmanship he shows, sending himself and the rest of his weird trade up, he exhibits superb comic timing.

Brendan Gleeson as prison cook Knuckles McGinty is another stand out – but frankly the whole cast shine, the story is a laugh, and you sense the much-missed Michael Bond would approve of the moral thread running through it.

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