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(The final NaPoWriMo prompt for the month is to write a poem about something that returns, so I went a bit cynical for a lovably uncynical film.)

A ubiquitous rule of the filmmaking sphere
Is “That which makes money returns.”
Before all the interest and buzz disappear,
They’ll double whatever it earns.

Who cares if the second is not the first’s equal?
(It could be, but most tend to doubt.)
The crowds will turn out nonetheless for the sequel;
That’s why they keep churning them out.

MPA rating: PG

Paddington 2 is what got me to finally watch these movies. The first Paddington‘s 97% on Rotten Tomatoes is nothing to sniff at, but when its sequel earns a rare 100% and becomes the highest-rated film in Rotten Tomatoes history, it’s time to take a look. And indeed Paddington 2 is the kind of sequel other sequels wish they could be, building on the first with even more genuine sweetness and gently clever humor.

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Paddington Bear (Ben Whishaw) is still living happily with the Brown family in London and searching for the perfect birthday present for his distant Aunt Lucy, finding it in an antique pop-up book. In place of Nicole Kidman’s vengeful taxidermist, the new villain on the block is Hugh Grant’s arrogant but washed-up actor Phoenix Buchanan, who has his own designs on the pop-up book and manages to frame Paddington for its theft. With Paddington in prison, the Browns seek to clear their ursine family member’s name.

Ignoring a few predictable elements toward the end, Paddington 2 is an all-around joy of a family film. Paddington himself remains a refreshingly genteel and lovable protagonist, and I loved how he gradually wins over the hardened criminals in the jail through, you know, friendship and marmalade. Many scenes are made wondrous through their handsome visual playfulness, whether by unique sets or seamless effects, and I had to admire how well-structured the gags and side characters’ sub-stories were, each one getting some kind of payoff during the climax. With Hugh Grant being so highly praised for his flamboyant villain, I was expecting a bit more from him, but he still provided a theatrical hamminess that fit perfectly into the plot. And it’s a cold heart that won’t want to shed a tear at the ending.

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I’m torn on the ranking I should give Paddington 2. I did love it, but I feel like I’d love it more if I’d seen it as a child, with the same nostalgic fondness I have for something like Stuart Little. Of course, my affection for it could very well grow the more I see it. I don’t know that it deserves to be the highest-rated film ever, but I can certainly agree it’s as close to a modern classic as any recent family film has gotten. It’s a heartwarming reminder that, every now and then, a sequel can validate its existence on its own merits.

Best line: (Mr. Curry, glad that Paddington is gone) “We don’t want him here.”   (Mr. Brown) “No, of course you don’t. YOU never have! As soon as you set eyes on that bear, you made up your mind about him. Well, Paddington’s not like that. He looks for the good in all of us, and somehow he finds it! It’s why he makes friends wherever he goes. And it’s why Windsor Gardens is a happier place whenever he’s around. He wouldn’t hesitate if any of us needed help! So stand aside, Mr. Curry, ’cause we’re coming through.”


Rank: List Runner-Up


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