Saturday, January 13, 2018

Paddington 2

So, which is more peculiar as a childless adult in one's mid-forties - seeing Paddington at a preview show with a mostly-empty theater, or showing up to a show full of families without any of your own? As much as you might get side-eye at the latter, the one I went to was oddly quiet and I really would have liked to be able to read the room and see if American kids enjoyed this nearly as much as I.

It was not my original plan, actually - I'd been planning to make The Commuter the Thursday preview I caught last night, and check out the new theater in the Seaport on top of that, but the Red Line was all kinds of awful; I got on the second of two packed trains out of Alewife, and it had to sit around and stop every time it nearly caught up with the first one, and by the time I got to Park Street, it was clear I wasn't getting to South Station, switching to the Silver Line, going another stop, and re-orienting myself and finding the place in time for the 7:30 show. Might as well go for the 7:45 at Boston Common then.
Only a couple folks in the theater, and it was a funny arrangement - me in the front section, a couple way in the back. Hopefully, a ton of folks bring their kids this weekend; it's really delightful and there's a ton of not-good stuff coming up for kids; let 'em see something good here.

Anyway, be glad that I can't really do the thing I came up with as I wrote the review, where I compare the way the Kingsman films use their exaggerated Britishness with the way that the Paddington ones do. I think they've both got a certain pride in their identity, although I seem to remember Matthew Vaughn using it more as an affectation and disguise while Paul King seems to find it true on top of being useful.

Paddington 2

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen on 11 January 2018 in AMC Boston Common #1 (first-run, DCP)

Paddington 2 couldn't quite sneak up on me the way the first did - its American trailer spent most of its time on the closest thing the movie has to a gross-out gag, only for the film to later reveal itself as witty and big-hearted - especially since the folks in the UK have been much more vocal about what a lovely film Paul King has made the second time around. That's okay. Knowing to expect its very British brilliance actually makes it no less delightful.

After the previous film's origin story, this one picks up with Paddington (voice of Ben Whishaw), a small orphaned bear who came to London from Peru and was named for the train station where he was found, quite settled in with the Brown family, although each of them is experiencing some of their own growing pains. He still writes to his Aunt Lucy (voice of Imelda Staunton), and wishes to send her an extra-special present for her upcoming hundredth birthday. He lays eyes on a vintage pop-up book of London in a local antique shop, but it's terribly expensive, leading him to work various odd jobs to try to raise the money. He has almost managed it when he sees someone burgling the shop, but he winds up sent to jail for the crime. While the Brown family (Sally Hawkins, Hugh Bonneville, Madeleine Harris, Samuel Joslin & Julie Walters) follow the trail of clues leading to out-of-work actor - and master of disguise - Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant), the irrepressible bear makes friends in the jail, including quick-tempered cook Knuckles McGinty (Brendan Gleeson).

There is really no end to the utter delight found in these films, which co-writer and director King fills with joyous, gentle slapstick and absurdity. It is far too British and polite to actually wink at the audience, but King knows just exactly how to create a tone that plays to kids and also lets adults have fun with how knowingly silly the movie is. And it's wonderfully silly and traditional, with a pop-up book that becomes a treasure map, kids with charmingly analog (and useful) hobbies, a sense that being polite and kind can do wonders. It's a film full of layers, with jokes just hidden enough that kids will be delighted to find them (pay attention to every headline in McGinty's newspaper), colorful adventure, and more well-earned emotion than one would think could possibly come from an animated bear. It is utterly earnest and aware that this can be a rare thing, and never so serious about that as it could be. It will get a joke or two out of how broadly adults can see it being played, but King and co-writer Simon Farnaby never look down or make fun.

Full review at EFC

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