'Paddington 2' is a delightful sequel that improves on style and substance

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In an age where the most popular cinematic works generally deal with violence, the apocalypse, cynicism, or sometimes all of the above, it's again a welcome and refreshing change of pace to see a movie targeted at all ages slapping on feel-good happiness as thick and plentiful as Paddington smearing marmalade all over his trademark sandwich. This also leads to some fun callbacks to gags from the first film, but since the script is all about continuing to lend depth to this franchise's universe, it's never forced and always a pleasure.

There's a brief opening sequence that explains how Paddington, as an orphan cub, was rescued, and thereafter adopted, by two other spectacled bears: Aunt Lucy (Imelda Staunton) and Uncle Pastuzo (Michael Gambon). The loving hug she extended Paddington in the first film was not just a gesture but a promise, and that promise is more than kept in a sequel that wraps you in its own warm embrace from start to finish. Brown (Hugh Bonneville), for one, believes that Phoenix is an upstanding citizen until his wife breaks into the actor's house and they discover stage disguises in his attic. Paddington phones the Browns who assure him they haven't forgotten him and they know Buchanan is the thief. You'll still get that message with the adventurous zest, and colorful visuals that Paddington traded in.

Most of the original cast returned for Paddington 2, but they spend much of the film in the background, with the exception of Mrs.

Teo Bugbee, The New York Times: "Neighborliness is next to godliness in "Paddington 2".

The story is economically plotted with nary a wasted moment, giving all of the principals a chance to shine, including dad Henry (Hugh Bonneville), undergoing a mid-life crisis, and mom Mary (Sally Hawkins), whose aspiration to being a long-distance swimmer comes handily into play. Thanks to a bit of bad timing, Paddington gets charged for the theft and winds up in prison. But when the book is stolen, it's up to Paddington and the Browns to unmask the thief. The movie's MVP is Brendan Gleeson, as the gruff yet soft-hearted prison chef with an all-timer name of Knuckles McGinty.

Paddington finds a present for Lucy
Paddington finds a present for Lucy Courtesy of Warner Bros

Now things are not all that good with Paddington as there are people that do not like him. It gives Paddington hope and the desire to become a free bear. Will Paddington plus his family and friends be able to stop Buchanan?

But unfortunately, unbeknownst to Paddington, there is someone else who has been eyeing the book.

Paddington 2 has done what many franchises couldn't: make a sequel about a courageous bear brilliant, attractive and better than the original.

Bilge Ebiri, Miami New Times: "Aside from being a disarming, refreshing wallow in kindness, Paddington 2 also has the benefit of being well-constructed and exceedingly well-performed". If you're looking for a happy "feel good movie" this will be a great one. Hugh Grant is playing up his campy side and while many of his theater references will go over the younger audiences' heads, his outlandish physical comedy will not. After Cloud Atlas and Paddington 2, it leaves me with no doubt that he actually always wanted roles like Johnny Depp's but the world always threw John Cusack's at him.

Sally Hawkins ("The Shape of Water") and Hugh Bonneville ("Downton Abbey") return from the first film as the Browns, who took in Paddington when he arrived in London from Peru. His motto, "If we're kind and polite, the world will be right", is the film's entirely honest moral. As we see in a gloriously animated sequence, in which Paddington finds himself happily lost amid the book's three-dimensional pages, it's the flawless gift for someone who, like Lucy, always wanted to visit the city but never got the chance.

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