'Paddington 2' review: Hugh Grant makes sequel delightful

The marmalade-loving bear from

If you liked the original Paddington movie, you will absolutely love Paddington 2. Many children's films are cloyingly sentimental and saddled with group-written scripts that buzz around aimlessly like lightning bugs in a jar.

If you haven't seen the trailers, filmmaker Paul King returns to direct the sequel, which picks up with Paddington Bear (voiced by Ben Whishaw) who has now settled into his life with the Brown family.

If you're caught up on season two of "The Grand Tour" (Clarkson's follow-up to "Top Gear", with fellow hosts Richard Hammond and James May), Hugh Bonneville guested on the Christmas episode.

Paddington (named after the railway station where he was found) is unfailingly kind, polite and optimistic, and his great heart has made him beloved of (almost) everyone in his diverse urban neighborhood. This is particularly true in light of the first Paddington film being such a rich surprise - perhaps we've quickly come to expect the clever. But before he can buy the book, someone breaks into Gruber's shop and steals it. Paddington tries to catch the thief, but ends up arrested and jailed as the culprit. However, his comic sensibilities, which always lean towards sarcasm (arguably, Grant's best performance is as the acidic lead in the 2002 dramedy About a Boy), fit in squarely with Paddington 2's sly tone. He makes a mess as a window cleaner and is an even worse fit as a hairdresser but he is saving money.

This time, Paddington, all settled in with the Brown family, is looking for a ideal gift for his Aunt Lucy's birthday. Brown adds just the right hint of the fantastical to the action, while Grant's diabolical Phoenix Buchanan delights in a final, scene-stealing production number.

Now things are not all that good with Paddington as there are people that do not like him.

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Paddington 2 is a gorgeous visual treat, as it expands on the previous film's art style by including elegant pencil animations, and the CGI character work is even more convincing than the first go around. The backgrounds and sets are detailed with a (dare I say it) nearly steampunk edge to the design that gives Paddington's world a hint of magic.

But the real draw of Paddington and his friends are the warm, cute characters straight out of a bed time story book. A feature-length film needs three acts of plot and, to that end, this franchise has introduced villains to Paddington's universe.

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". Much like its central protagonist, the film bounces along with an effervescent air that seeks to make everyone's day a little brighter, and is helped along the way by several doses of humor.

Has Hugh Grant changed at all since making Notting Hill? His eyes are especially "real" and express all his emotions beautifully.

Arriving just in time to brighten a typically dreary post-holiday season at the multiplex, "Paddington 2" is a beautifully structured comedy of the old school, full of inspired blink-and-you-miss-it wordplay, intricate gags that build on each other, and narrative digressions that pay off in ways that feel inspired rather than predictable. His motto, "If we're kind and polite, the world will be right", is the film's entirely honest moral. Paddington 2 refuses to accept this technique of screenplay but brings nothing new to contemplate on the table as well.

But Paddington is a bear with a lot of determination and a positive attitude, and his new movie - now safely in the hands of Warner Bros., which handled producer David Heyman's "Harry Potter" films - turns out to be completely delightful.

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