The Subterranean: ‘Paddington 2’ softens hardest heart

**** out of five stars 

Currently in theaters

by Walter G. Tarrow

The sweetest movie ever made. A treacly confection lovingly crafted to soften the hardest of hearts.

And for you cinephiles, this is Wes Anderson lite. A kid-friendly primer to the elaborate visual delights of Grand Budapest Hotel and Moonlight Kingdom.

Paddington, that little bear from Peru, along with his adopted family the Browns, lives in a fanciful London with people and places both comfortingly familiar and ideally imagined as in the pop up pages of the book, the MacGuffin, at the center of it all. Paddington’s wish to acquire, to toil for, this book as a gift for his beloved Aunt Lucy back in Peru pits him against the egomaniacal actor Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant) who steals the book for himself. Although Paddington works his way with odd jobbing into the coin purses and hearts of his fellow Londoners, he is mistakenly framed for the theft and the wee bruin is sent to prison.

Paddington’s penchant for marmalade and all things sweet and his unwavering belief in the kindness of strangers transforms the big house into a wonderland of sugary treats and kind convict helpers. While back home the Browns and the neighbours unite in an effort to clear his name. All who come into contact with the bear have no recourse but to find him, and themselves in turn, endearing. Such is his charm.

With a treasure hunt and chases across Londontown and onboard a circus train, the film delivers oodles of excitement. And it all concludes with the expected satisfactory happy ending. No need to console the little ones. Nope. No need at all.

The ensemble cast is superb with an assemblage of well recognized actors leading with Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey) and Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water) as Mr. and Mrs. Brown, and a bevy of character actors including Jim Broadbent, Michael Gambon, Imelda Staunton, Tom Conti and Brendan Gleeson as the gruff scary prison cook who Paddington helps to bring tasty to the table. Even Peter Capaldi (Dr. Who) makes an appearance as the self-appointed neighbourhood watchdog who frowns on Paddington’s good hearted shenanigans. And Ben Whishaw as the voice of Paddington brings a simple wisdom and disarming maturity to the CGI bear. Or is Paddington not computer generated, but real? Hard to tell.

The design of the movie, production and art, is exceptional, in a class by itself, very uniquely of Paddington’s world. Even Mrs. Brown’s illustrations and the pop up book coming to life are enchanting. I’ve never seen so much pink! And in a prison no less.

Do a kindness and take the kids, the grandkids, and yourselves, to see this enchanting candied  treat. You’ll love the bear. Count on it.

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