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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Paddington 2 is the sequel to 2015's adorable (and critically acclaimed) adaptation of Michael Bond's beloved English books. This follow-up is equally sweet and perhaps even more appropriate for younger kids (the villain in this one is significantly less menacing than Nicole Kidman's terrifying taxidermist in the original). Even when Paddington is sentenced to prison, it's not too upsetting: The inmates look intimidating at first but eventually befriend the kind bear. But you can expect a few scary or sad scenes, particularly when a lonely Paddington cries in his prison cell and later nearly drowns, but otherwise the action/violence is much more of the slapstick sort. And there are plenty of silly hi-jinks and enough physical humor -- not to mention messages about compassion, empathy, kindness, and the importance of families -- to entertain audiences of all ages. Hugh Grant, Hugh Bonneville, and Sally Hawkins co-star.
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What's the story?
PADDINGTON 2 continues the story of Paddington bear (voiced by Ben Whishaw), who now happily lives with his adopted English family, the Browns -- father Henry (Hugh Bonneville), mother Mary (Sally Hawkins), and teens Judy (Madeleine Harris) and Jonathan (Samuel Joslin), as well as their beloved relative/housekeeper, Mrs. Bird (Julie Walters) -- in a London neighborhood that's grown incredibly fond of him. Paddington wants to buy a special gift for his Aunt Lucy's 100th birthday. He finds a beautiful, expensive pop-up book about London at his friend Mr. Gruber's (Jim Broadbent) antique shop. To earn the money for the present, Paddington does odd jobs. Then, right before he's finally able to buy it, a mysterious thief steals it -- and Paddington ends up wrongfully accused. Paddington is sentenced to prison for the robbery based on the testimony of the Browns' actor neighbor, Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant). The young bear is frightened at first but manages to make new friends behind bars.
Is it any good?
A delightful sequel that will charm audiences of all ages, this is precisely the sort of earnest, crowd-pleasing family film that parents and kids can enjoy for their own reasons. Children will gravitate to the slapstick and silliness; Paddington is prone to getting himself in spots of trouble, and there's a lot of physical comedy. One elaborate sequence involves Paddington trying his luck as a barber (he's really just meant to clean the shop) and failing spectacularly. It's an obvious bit (the bear accidentally shaves off a chunk of a gentleman's hair instead of trimming it), but it works so well. This happens again and again in the movie -- simple gags and small moments earn outsized laughs.
Adults (especially middle-aged parents with teens, like the Browns), meanwhile, will appreciate the movie's family dynamics. Mary is trying adventurous new things (she's training to swim across the English Channel), while Henry deals with a lost promotion by attempting to be hip; Judy gets over a break-up by starting an indie feminist newspaper, and Jonathan suppresses his love of model trains to go by "J Dawg" and fit in with a cooler crowd. Walters' Mrs. Bird, of course, continues to be a voice of reason. And Grant's vain, has-been Buchanan makes for a better (and gentler) villain than the original movie's scary taxidermist. But the real scene-stealers here are Paddington's fellow inmates, led by Brendan Gleeson as Knuckles McGinty, the prison cook all the felons are terrified of crossing. Of course, Paddington (and his marmalade sandwiches) can charm even hardened criminals, and soon his compassion and kindness transform the entire prison. Ultimately, the adorable bear is a much-needed reminder that if you treat others with respect and generosity, the world will be a sweeter and more colorful place.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Paddington's continued popularity. What makes him such an iconic literary figure? How well do the books translate to the screen?
Discuss the violence in the movie. Is it appropriate for young viewers? Was it clear that everything would turn out all right in the end, or were you really worried about certain characters' safety? How much "scary stuff" can young kids handle?
Why do the Browns love Paddington -- and vice versa? Which characters are role models, and why?
Why is physical comedy so common in kids' movies? What makes it so funny?
- In theaters: January 12, 2018
- On DVD or streaming: April 24, 2018
- Cast: Ben Whishaw, Hugh Grant, Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins
- Director: Paul King
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Book Characters, Wild Animals
- Character strengths: Compassion, Empathy
- Run time: 103 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: some action and mild rude humor
- Awards/Honors: Common Sense Selection
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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