Four years ago, when Paddington came to theaters, I went to see it primarily because I had a four-year-old who was into stuffed animals and cute animations – and I walked out pleasantly surprised at just how good the film was. Jump forward to late 2017, and I was terribly jealous of my British cousins who got to watch the sequel a full two months before its release this side of the pond. Last night I finally got my chance, and not only was I not disappointed, but I came out feeling that this movie manages to be that rare thing: a sequel that improves on the first one.

[SPOILER ALERT: Scroll through below to read my review of Paddington 2. Direct discussion will be limited to the first fifteen minutes of the film.]

The movie opens with a brief flashback that shows us how Paddington [Ben Whishaw] first met Aunt Lucy [Imelda Staunton] and Uncle Pastuzo [Michael Gambon] when he was a wee lost cub. His sudden and surprising addition to their family means that their plans to travel to London get put off indefinitely, something that is only rectified when young Paddington travels there in their stead (the first movie). We return to the present some time after the end of Paddington, with the bear from darkest Peru now fully integrated into his life in the Brown’s home and neighborhood. Everywhere he goes, he makes peoples’ days brighter, their smiles wider with, of course, the exception of Mr. Curry [Peter Capaldi], who has now taken on the self-proclaimed title of head of the neighborhood guard.

Aunt Lucy’s 100th birthday is fast approaching, and Paddington wants to get her a present, something special to celebrate the milestone. Paddington’s friend, curio shop proprietor Mr. Gruber [Jim Broadbent] has just the thing: an antique pop-up book showing twelve famous London landmarks. Unfortunately, it’s going to cost just a little more than the pound coin Paddington finds in his ear, so he decided to take on some jobs around the neighborhood in order to raise the necessary funds. When the book gets stolen from Mr. Gruber’s, Paddington is blamed for the theft, and it looks like all of his plans are going to fall apart.

All of the main players are back from the first film: Henry and Mary Brown [Hugh Bonneville and Sally Hawkins], their children Judy and Jonathon [Madeleine Harris, Samuel Joslin], and Julie Walters as Mrs. Bird. There are also a bunch of new neighbours, led by former star and sometime dog food hawker Phoenix Buchanan [played with relish by Hugh Grant], forgetful Dr. Jafri [Sanjeev Bhaskar], the lonely Colonel Lancaster [Ben Miller], newsstand owner Miss Kitts [Jessica Hynes, who will be familiar to fans of Spaced and Shaun of the Dead, and, while not strictly a neighbour, the always excellent Brendan Gleeson as Knuckles (or Nuckle’s, if you prefer) McGinty.

The comic charm of the first movie is replicated here, and the level of peril is just right for a younger audience to be able to enjoy it without getting too anxious. Grant and Gleeson are particularly welcome additions to the franchise, providing between them many of the laughs not directly provided by the bear. And yes, there’s plenty of marmalade to go around. One last thing – stay through the credits, as there is a treat of a mid-credit scene.

Steve’s Rating: (9 / 10)
Paddington 2 achieves just the right mix of ingredients in its marmalade – sweet, but not overly so, with a nice balance of interesting bits to chew on. A movie good for audiences of all ages and temperaments that somehow manages to exceed the joy of its predecessor.

Director: Paul King
Writers: Paul King and Simon Farnaby (written by); Michael Bond (“Paddington Bear” created by)
Starring: Ben Whishaw, Hugh Grant, Sally Hawkins, Hugh Bonneville, Madeleine Harris, Samuel Joslin
Release Date: January 12, 2018 (November 5, 2017 [UK])
Runtime: 1 hr. 44 mins.
MPAA Rating: PG