Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Paddington 2

Under common law, the British crown is inherited by a sovereign's children or by a childless sovereign's nearest collateral line. In the case of Queen Elizabeth II, her heir apparent is Charles, Prince Of Wales, and next in line is William, Duke Of Cambridge. This legislation means that even the Queen herself is unable to stop Charles succeeding to the throne, because it would require a new Act of Parliament to be passed to change the law. That's why we won't see William leapfrogging his father to become the next monarch. However, the law is unclear on what happens once all members of the British royal family and Members of Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland have been to see Paddington 2, which makes the strongest case yet for the next King of England to be Hugh Grant.

Grant - or King Hugh I, as we should probably get used to calling him - is on such dazzling form as panto villain Phoenix Buchanan in Paddington 2 that I am almost prepared to pretend American Dreamz never happened. Returning to Notting Hill (specifically Windsor Gardens), Grant twinkles with Roger Moore-esque self-awareness as Buchanan, a washed-up actor who lives in a house decorated almost exclusively with framed headshots of a Four Weddings-era Hugh Grant. Bedecked in a series of wonderfully ludicrous costumes (see Exhibit A, above) even when not in disguise as, say, a sexy nun, he is evidently having the time of his life despite playing someone who is clearly suffering some kind of multiple personality disorder brought on by declining fame and the frequent ingestion of dog food.

And yet despite all this, Grant is but a single (albeit perfect) cog in the beautifully-oiled machine that is Paddington 2, a film as bursting with heart, charm and barely-tolerable delightfulness as its predecessor. Everything here is wonderful, from Peter Capaldi's all-too-brief turn as the Daily Mail in human form to Ben Whishaw's unfailingly affable delivery in his role as the ultimate care bear. As before, Paddington's mission is still to pass on the simple life lessons taught to him by his Aunt Lucy: that honesty, politeness, positive thinking and a sound grasp of the perfect marmalade recipe are enough to overcome any hurdle, even wrongful imprisonment at Her Majesty's pleasure (I hope Her Maj is happy; King Hugh would never countenance such a tragic miscarriage of justice).

It's this inconvenient incarceration, suffered while trying to finger Buchanan for a dastardly deed, that sets Paddington off on an awfully big adventure that includes law-breaking, a traumatic near-drowning and themes of selfishness, abandonment and duplicity: essentially everything you want from a kids' film about a cuddly anthropomorphic bear. And the film pulls this off with one paw firmly in a wistfully-imagined past (nobody uses a mobile; steam trains are cool); one paw in a dreamy future where Brexit is a dismissable joke and common decency trumps all; one paw in Michael Bond's captivating books, and the other paw reaching back to the silent comedy of early cinema (it's no coincidence that Chaplin's Modern Times gets the most obvious but respectful homage).
It is now clear that the Paddington team's modus operandi is the promotion of basic interpersonal civility couched in ursine slapstick, laced with a worryingly uncanny ability to leave you emotionally overwhelmed despite the fact that you're essentially watching middle-class people getting exasperated by a bunch of pixels in a floppy hat. And they are ruthlessly good at it: Paddington 2 had me in tears on at least three separate occasions. There's actual magic in Paul King's direction and (with Simon Farnaby) writing here that makes scenes which, out of context, really shouldn't be that funny or moving, but because everything is so steeped in loveliness it's impossible not to surrender to their charms. I laughed like a drain and cried like a drainpipe, so much so at the finale that I could hardly make out the credits.

Throw in a couple of beautiful animated sequences; a rousing score by Dario Marianelli; a truckload of wonderful cameos (what Richard Ayoade does with his thirty seconds is literally incredible); Sally Hawkins being effortlessly lovely AGAIN; nods to The Grand Budapest Hotel, Mission: Impossible and possibly even Octopussy and an end credit sequence that I'm beginning to think may have been a hallucination caused by excessive amounts of blubbing, and you've got the movie equivalent of Hugh Grant: a national treasure disguised as throwaway entertainment. Long may they both reign.

1 comment :

  1. As naff as it sounds, hearing that P2 (as no-one is calling it) is good has cheered me up no end. Thanks.