PADDINGTON BEAR 2**** A Christmas Joy

THERE ARE A couple of scenes in this marvelous movie that are guffawingly funny. When the brilliantly realized, thoroughly clutzy, Paddington (voiced by Ben Wishaw) decides he has to earn some money cleaning windows, Director Paul King (who directed the first movie) unleashes a series of comedy routines that are simply priceless.

This revisiting of Michael Bond’s good natured bear and his adopted family (or is it the other way around?) is as good as the first.

King’s fluid, roaming camera (that takes you with him to the edge of thunderous waterfalls and swoops over rooftops) gives the story (of a bear in search of a stolen book) an energy and a stylishness that’s irresistible. You can’t blame Hugh Grant’s (we presume apocryphal) story that his father queried whether the bear were real. As far as I’m concerned, Framestore’s magic made it so.

And as you’d expect in a story like this, there’s a hissable baddy: said Hugh Grant as the dastardly Phoenix Buchanan

This is Grant’s movie-dominating, scene-stealing, triumphant tour de force return to the movies (a return he tempted us with in “Florence Foster-Jenkins”). Even if you hate “kid’s movies” see it just for him. Grant isn’t just one baddie, but several. He’s a devious washed-up actor, desperate for some extra cash; and he’s a shifty nun, a piratical Magwich, a Medieval knight in armour, a bumbling bald train conductor and an all round deliciously entertaining comedian.

He’s backed up by a who’s who of Brit cinema: Brendan Gleeson as a career criminal who falls for marmalade, Sally Hawkins and Hugh Bonneville as Paddington’s adopted parents, Michael Gambon, Richard Ayoade, Jim Broadbent, Joanna Lumley being Ab Fab, Peter Capaldi, still nasty, Imelda Staunton and others

Here’s a version of England as the England – community spirited, diverse, forgiving – as we’d all like it to be. And giving the entire enterprise a jolly pep to its step (as in P1) is a swaying, smile-making Trinidad calypso band (D Lime featuring calypsonian Tobago Crusoe).

Who could want for anything more


PADDINGTON 2. Dir: Paul King, With: Hugh Grant, Ben Wishaw, Brendan Gleeson, Hugh Bonneville and Sally Hawkins. Written by: Simon Farnaby (from the books by Michael Bond) along with Paul King. Cinematographer: Erik Wilson. Production Designer: Gary WIlliamson



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