There’s a special kind of joy to be found in great silent comedies. Films that, denied the flexibility of grandiose cinematography or nimble conversation, find their creativity in intricately-choreographed physical comedy. Keaton, Chaplin, Tati, Lloyd – and, now, Paddington Bear.
Paddington 2 isn’t silent. But it carries the spirit of those films, joyful and astounding at once, showcasing swirling long shots and carefully-crafted comedy (there’s even a physical comedy consultant credited!). I found the first film charming but forgettable; this is on a whole ‘nother level.
The storyline is simple enough for pre-schoolers to follow – pop-up books and treasure maps and prison breaks – but it’s rendered with such obvious warmth and ingenuity that you’ll be won over whatever your age. Yes, it’s a dioramic tribute to silent cinema – hi, Wes Anderson! – down to an extended The General homage, but it’s also heartfelt, to the point that I almost found myself tearing up during its final minutes.
That’d be enough, but there’s a gentle interrogation of British politeness here to elevate matters; Paddington’s ‘niceness’ is a soft rebuttal to British traditionalism that’s aligned against migrants, continuing the first film’s pro-refugee stance. Plus, Hugh Grant’s never been funnier. One of 2017’s best films.