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Paddington 2 (2017)

December 29, 2017 — Leave a comment

For some, the idea of Paul King, director of The Mighty Boosh, bringing Paddington to the silver screen was a big surprise. It could be argued that the surreal scenarios of the Boosh don’t lend themselves to the quaintness of Michael Bond’s world. However, considering Michael Bond’s world revolves around a talking bear who eats marmalade sandwiches, who’s to say what surreal is any more. Regardless, King is back with Paddington 2, co-written alongside regular collaborator Simon Farnaby, and if possible, it’s even better than the first.

Since the first film, Paddington (Ben Wishaw) has settled into his new life with the Brown family, which is shown rather marvellously in an opening scene which shows the adopted bear helping out everyone he can on his way to the shops. With his Aunt Lucy’s 100th birthday coming up, Paddington wants to get her an expensive, antique pop-up book. Unfortunately, narcissistic actor, Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant) also wants it. Before you know it, the book has been stolen and all fingers point to Paddington being the main culprit. Of course, we all know Phoenix is the real thief and whilst Paddington spends his days behind bars, the Brown family do everything they can to prove he’s innocent.

Like its predecessor, Paddington 2 is ridiculously heart-warming. It has no right to be this nice, and loving, and caring, and not come across as naïve. This is a film where sweet, innocent Paddington wins over a violent criminal called Nuckles (Brendan Gleeson) armed only with a marmalade sandwich. Every part of my cynical nature should be sneering till the cows come home. And yet, it is impossible not be won over by the film. Around this time of year, we’re bombarded with VOD films that tell us to be nice to our fellow neighbours and preach that if we tried a little harder, we could all be happy. Paddington 2 is the only film this year where I genuinely believe it could happen.

Perhaps it’s hope on my part, but it wouldn’t hurt the world to be 1% like it is on screen. Whilst Peter Capaldi’s immigrant-hating neighbour returns, the world of Paddington is largely untouched by Trump and Brexit. People help each other, not because they’ll get something out of it, but because it’s the right thing to do. And in turn, someone will one day help them. It’s not the worst message to be spreading at Christmas – or indeed at any time of the year – and Paddington Brown is by far the best person to relay that. Paddington for Prime Minister!

We’ve all reached that point in our lives when it feels like we’re going nowhere. The wheels are spinning, but a lifestyle of lethargy and apathy act like an anchor. The reasons can sometimes be a lack of money, insufficient  experience  to get a job or, in the case of Bunny and the Bull’s Stephen Turnbull (Edward Hogg), an unending fear of the very worst things in life happening. Stephen has crippling agoraphobia and not left his flat in months, which has become an altar to unshakable depression and OCD. When some mice threaten his usually rigorous daily routine, Stephen finds himself beginning to reminisce about the events that led to his present day situation.

The catalyst for everything appears to be a man called Bunny (Simon Farnaby). Aggressive, confrontational, bawdy, a billy bullshitter and Stephen’s closest friend, Bunny convinces him to go on a trip to Europe and it’s this trip that makes up the bulk of the film’s narration.

Paul King (The Mighty Boosh/Come Fly with Me) provides a novel approach to Stephen’s flashbacks, which in hindsight, is reminiscent of the latest adaptation of one of Tolstoy’s classics. Joe Wright’s Anna Karenina was set firmly within the confines  of an abandoned theatre. Wright was suggesting the text’s protagonists are never true to themselves or each other. Merely aping emotions and putting on a front.  The artificial meets reality. Similarly, Stephen’s adventures with Bunny are constructed out of the contents of his own flat. Takeaway cartons contort into restaurants, forests spring from cardboard and the sky fills with newspaper snow. If the hero refuses to leave his flat, then neither shall the story. It produces the effect of someone trying to pick their way through their memories, creating a hazy recollection that isn’t quite true. In the same way, Levin, Anna Karenina’s only realist, leaves the theatre, Stephen’s memories only start to be realistic when he comes to terms with the root of the problem.

Finding the deeper meaning in all this may seem a bit much, knowing that Bunny and the Bull is supposed to be a comedy. But like all the best comedies, it’s successful because of this dark field in which it pitches its humour. In this instance, a young man’s potential insanity. When the laughs come, they are wonderful. From eating his bodyweight in seafood to more life threatening risks, Farnaby’s Bunny refuses to bow down in the face of any adversity and comes across like a mean-spirited Homer Simpson. On top of that there are unsurprisingly comedic turns from Noel Fielding, Julian Barratt and Richard Ayoade who have all collaborated with King in the past.

Bunny and the Bull is a delightfully quirky, extremely well crafted comedy that has a real heart and speak to anyone who feels, like Stephen, they’ve come to a stop.