Blu-ray Review: Paddington 2

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Thanks largely to overseas box office receipts, the best-reviewed movie of all time (on Rotten Tomatoes, where it holds a rare 100% "Fresh" rating with nearly 200 reviews aggregated) turned a nice profit theatrically. Paddington 2 did not fare well in the U.S., which seems to gobble up anything Pixar-, Disney-, or Minion-related. Maybe "Anglophobia" is too strong a word to account for the reaction (or lack thereof), but I guess for many folks in the U.S. the Paddington movies are simply too "foreign." But, not to merely join the chorus, Paddington 2 is just a sweetheart of a movie. It's available now on Blu-ray (also 4K UltraHD and standard DVD) from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.

Here's a family film that doesn't rely on bathroom humor, hip pop culture references, or irony in general. The story itself feels charmingly out-of-time, as if plopped into 2018 from some mid-20th century period (when Michael Bond's original A Bear Called Paddington was first published). But through tastefully deployed computer wizardry, there's plenty of dazzling action that somehow never feels out of place. And the titular character, lovably voiced by Ben Whishaw, is the best type of CG creation—much like Caesar from the recent Planet of the Apes reboots, you can sense the emotion in this animated character's eyes. 

Paddington2_kitchen.jpg Of course, when Paddington 2 scores a perfect 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, it isn't met with the same sort of celebration that greeted hipper films like Lady Bird or Get Out (both managed to slip from 100%, but not before being celebrated as 'the best reviewed movie' on the site). Paddington the bear has pretty much zero hip factor, truth be told. But this sequel (full disclosure: I never saw part one and had absolutely no trouble at all getting into part two) is a PG film that shouldn't embarrass adults who watch for their own pleasure. And, believe it or not, if you haven't seen it you might be quite surprised by how much action the film packs in.

Paddington 2 is actually a prison break film, as it turns out. Paddington, living in Windsor Gardens with his adoptive family, wants nothing more than to buy his Aunt Lucy a special gift for her 100th birthday. He has his mind set on an antique pop-up book, one that is also believed by Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant, returning from the first film) to contain clues for uncovering a hidden treasure. Buchanan steals the book, frames Paddington for the crime, and the bear is whisked off to prison. It's in the big house that Paddington must deal with the fearsome mess hall chef Knuckles McGinty (Brendan Gleeson).

Paddington's adoptive human family, the Browns, work hard to exonerate the innocent bear. But Paddington's road to freedom is paved with many problems. Director Paul King never panders to his audience, which is why his film manages to be so touching for both younger and older viewers. Imaginative in every way, Paddington 2 is a heartfelt, gently humorous adventure that truly lives up to the cliche "fun for the whole family."

Warner Bros.' Blu-ray packs in a range of extra features, most are quite brief in length. Director Paul King (who also co-wrote the screenplay, with Simon Farnaby) contributes an audio commentary track. There's an array of short featurettes including "The Magical Mystery of Paddington's Pop-Up Book" and "How to Make a Marmalade Sandwich" (Paddington's own recipe scores him respect in prison).

Reportedly a third Paddington film has been greenlit. Hopefully the quality level of Paddington 2 is carried over to Paddington 3.

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Chaz Lipp is a Las Vegas-based musician and freelance writer. His new jazz album 'Good Merlin' is now available.

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