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I enjoyed the Michael Bond series of "Paddington" books growing up even though they had been around for quite some time, and in going through the memory banks I might have had a small Paddington doll as a kid? It certainly set forth my fondness of marmalade as a kid. And in discovering Cloud Atlas) a fully integrated member of the Brown family, with Henry (Hugh Bonneville, Notting Hill) and Mary (Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water) as the respective patriarch and matriarchs, and many of the Brown's neighbors as friends. Paddington is framed for the robbery of a prized book, which leads to his arrested and imprisonment while the family try to identify the real culprit, apparently an actor named Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant, About a Boy).
The first Paddington was a joy in that it was very comfortable in its skin; it was charming, funny, British, a myriad of general positives in life. And the cast was comfortable in the roles they played, all of which were secondary to a computer-generated talking bear. And they gave full effort to them as well, complemented as well by Whishaw providing a sense of loyalty and innocence to Paddington that fans of the material may not have realized before. And it worked very well. Thankfully Paddington 2 knows the formula and keeps the train rolling generally, but changing up enough to make things continually enjoyable. Paddington finds the toughest prisoner in jail and unknowingly confronts him, played perfectly by Brendan Gleeson (Calvary). Grant is wonderful as the villain in the film, and new wrinkles are added to the Browns that make them just as fun to experience a second time, but King keeps them and Paddington at a distance smartly in the film, which makes the payoff nice to see.
Continuing to King's credit, he clearly enjoys the material but more important than that the ensemble (which is Potter-esque in terms of the galaxy of British surnames in front of the camera) believes in the material and are willing to let it carry the day while doing their best with the character that they can. Take Gleeson, who's been in both franchises, the characters are sort of different but the effort put into the performances carve out memorable separate experiences, with the actor putting in a great deal to both works. Gleeson's an arthouse flavor du jour of sorts these days, but guys like him, Grant and recent Best Actress nominee Hawkins put what they can into them and Paddington 2 results in an experience that matches the first.
I'd hope that the Paddington films go on for awhile and that when a key member of the production expresses an urge not to do them anymore then things stop. Lots of people could say that a movie goes back to their childhood and for me these films do, and I find Paddington 2 retaining the same authenticity of the first, and both could very easily have come from Bond's books. Like each book, each movie is a treat to experience, and this one is just that.The Blu-ray Disc:
The AVC encode that befits Warner's 2.40:1 high-definition presentation of Paddington 2 is good without dropping any jaws. The worn red in Paddington's hat looks natural and the browns in the various bear fur is natural with hair being discernible, less so in the flesh and blood folks in the film. Detail is present through not sharp consistently throughout the film, and the exteriors look fine and lack a little multidimensionality. Warner doesn't go above and beyond with the film but it does look fine nonetheless.The Sound:
The Dolby Atmos track is also up to the task. The various Paddington pratfalls and crashes fill the speakers from all sides, when Phoenix ditches the character pursuing him on a theft, the flash powder presents clever use of the low-end, with the more dynamic moments all coming through just as effectively, like the early opening waterfall and bridge sequence. Dialogue is solid through the film and directional effects and channel panning are both present and sound clear and dynamic. Quietly good work on the technical side.Extras:
King provides a commentary to the film and while a solo effort it's an active track for the most part. He gets into story ideas for this film, some breakdowns of the visual effects and computer-generation and challenges involved, and getting some of the cast to accept their supporting roles in the film. It lacks a little bit of production recall but it's a decent track and good complement to the film. "The Bear Truth" (5:20) looks at Paddington's popularity and legacy, the approach to the films by King and the bear stand-ins share their thoughts on their work. "How two Make a Marmalade Sandwich" (2:42) is the guarded family recipe by the bears. A music video (1:34) by Grant's character is includes, followed by "A Special Bond" (5:43), which includes cast interviews and gets into the dynamic between the fake bear and real actors. "The Magical Mystery of Paddington's Pop-Up Book" (3:03) is a look at the computer-generated book that serves to springboard the film to acts II and III, while "A Fistful of Marmalade" (2:30) looks at Gleeson's role and impact in the film and "The (Once) Famous Faces of Phoenix Buchanan" (3:45) is a similar piece, but focused on Grant. A digital copy and a standard definition copy of the film are included.Final Thoughts:
Paddington 2 easily matches the enjoyment level of the first film, and possibly surpasses it with the performances of Gleeson and Grant. It's like the film was an already good meal, that had some things introduced to it to make it truly memorable while retaining its great flavor(u)r. Technically the disc looks and sounds good, and the extras were a little more than I anticipated. Overall, definitely worth seeing for the whole family.