A charming return for 'Paddington 2'

"Paddington 2" is that rare creation that somehow improves on its already charming predecessor.

Hugh Grant in a scene from “Paddington 2”

“Paddington 2” is that rare creation that somehow improves on its already charming predecessor.

Maybe it’s the addition of Hugh Grant as a lunatic faded star desperate for some cash to get his one man show going, Brendan Gleeson as a moody prison chef named Knuckles McGinty, a random dance routine during the credits, or the sheer earnestness of it all but “Paddington 2” is a delight.

Paul King returns as director and co-writer which finds Paddington living happily with the Brown family, Mary (Sally Hawkins), Henry (Hugh Bonneville), Jonathan (Samuel Joslin), Judy (Madeleine Harris) and Mrs Bird (Julie Walters). Paddington, through his Pollyanna positivity and Emily Post politeness, has turned their little candy-colored neighborhood, Windsor Gardens, into a friendly paradise.

Paddington gets a mission when he spots a London pop-up book at an antique store that he thinks would be perfect to buy his Aunt Lucy, who is still in Peru and has always dreamed of going to London. But, it’s expensive and he needs to get a job in order to afford it. It’s an easy set up for some hijinks as he tries and fails at a few things. In a film that feels so effortless, this is a rare snag that’s a little forced and chaotic.

At a fair, Paddington meets the actor Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant), who was once a star and has now been reduced to doing dog food commercials and takes an unusual interest in the book Paddington mentions.

One night Paddington notices a strange man breaking into the antique store, that houses the coveted book, attempts to stop it and ends up in prison.

Pretty dark for a Paddington movie, sure, but King keeps it light and positive.

And Paddington quickly charms his fellow inmates and the grouchy chef who doesn’t know that Knuckles begins with a K and not an N.

Grant seems to be having the most on-screen fun he’s had in years as the overly theatrical villain, who debates his devious plans out loud with a room full of costumed mannequins that he also provides the voices for. And there are some wonderfully fun digs at the egotism of actors throughout, including when Mrs. Bird explains that actors are “some of the most evil, devious people on the planet.”

Sally Hawkins also gets a nice spotlight as the eager-to-believe matriarch who is compelling enough to make you really trust that she’s possibly gotten a lead from a newsstand parrot about who framed Paddington.

Is it too lame to get wrapped up in the messages “Paddington 2” sends out?

There are a lot of worthy ones: The importance of kindness, family, and even saving money to get a gift for someone you love.

A sweet movie, that will have kids and adults, smiling, crying and knowing, that a problem can be fixed by a lovingly made marmalade sandwich.

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