Line up all of cinema history’s CGI bears and the pint-sized traveller from darkest Peru is hands-down the cutest. With Ben Whishaw providing pitch-perfect voicing, Paddington is shy, soft-spoken, wide-eyed and plushier than a box of soft toys (and that’s before you point a hairdryer at him).
Yes, he’ll block your plumbing, invalidate your home insurance and ride your bathtub down the stairs. Sure, he’ll infuriate your neighbours, lead your children gently astray and do unspeakable things with your toothbrush. But faced with those chocolate brown eyes and black nose, it’s literally impossible to stay mad at him.
Sequels have a nasty habit of shedding their stars, but the original Paddington was such a slam-dunk global smash that everyone has returned and are all back for the follow-up. Britpack veterans Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Jim Broadbent and Julie Walters are set to reprise their roles as the bear’s long-suffering hosts, while Madeleine Harris and Samuel Joslin return as the Brown kids, and Peter Capaldi scratches the itch of fans missing him as Doctor Who with a comeback as grotty bachelor, Mr Curry.
Thanks to Grant’s star-making turn as a lovesick ditherer in Four Weddings And A Funeral, it wasn’t until 2001’s Bridget Jones’s Diary that we realised he also does a fantastically rakish bad guy. Paddington 2 finds him firmly on the dark side as Phoenix Buchanan, described as a “vain, charming acting legend whose star has fallen somewhat in recent years”.
Another tantalising addition to the cast is Brendan Gleeson. The Emmy-winning Irish actor has lit up kids’ flicks from Harry Potter to Smurfs 2 – as well as more serious fare like Calvary – and you can expect to see him on manic form as Knuckles McGinty, billed as a “notorious safe-cracker and legendary strongman who becomes an unexpected new ally for Paddington”.
The original Paddington was lovingly shot and beautifully scripted, and for the sequel, it’s reassuring to note that behind the camera, we’re once again in the safe hands of Paul King: the BAFTA-nominated director who brought us such hit TV comedies as The Mighty Boosh and Come Fly With Me.
For Paddington 2, the new script is co-written with King by Simon Farnaby, the comedian who your kids will immediately recognise as Caligula and the Grim Reaper from the Horrible Histories series. Trust us, these guys will make you laugh your popcorn into your lap and play your heartstrings like an orchestra.
If you’re already considering the perfect family time, Paddington should give you the final push. Quite simply, this film is the kind of joyous, life-affirming snigger-fest that everybody needs to beat the winter blues.
You can expect buckets on heads, flowerpots on paws, priceless broken vases, lashings of marmalade, runaway hot-air balloons, Hugh Grant dressed as a knight – and Paddington riding a dog through the streets of London at breakneck speed.