Times are less sunny now; the fuzzy little guy has found himself behind bars, sentenced to a long imprisonment for the theft of a one-of-a-kind pop-up book from his best friend Mr.
But the real culprit is still at large: Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant), a formerly A-list actor who now plays a monocle-wearing dog in pet-food commercials and plans to use clues hidden in the book to find a lost fortune that he’ll use to finance his godawful West End one-man musical comeback show.
But it’s still a cut above the majority of family entertainment, and director Paul King, who got his start helming the surreal cult comedy series The Mighty Boosh, continues to prove himself a confident and comparatively sophisticated stylist, employing cutaway sets, Rube Goldberg slapstick, animated sequences in different styles, and loads of visual gags to create the film’s dollhouse-storybook world; the aesthetic influence of Wes Anderson is especially pronounced in the scenes set at the prison, where an early mishap involving a red sock and the prison laundry dyes the convicts’ uniforms a Grand Budapest Hotel shade of lavender pink.
Bean-by-way-of-digital-effects scene that finds Paddington taking a disastrous part-time job as a barber’s assistant to the various shenanigans of the villain, Buchanan, who scours the city for treasure disguised in his old theater costumes, leading Paddington’s friends to pin the crimes on a purported gang that includes a nun, a medieval knight, and the Great Expectations character Abel Magwitch.
Curry, the antagonist played by Peter Capaldi in the first film, is still around, running a self-appointed one-man neighborhood watch that seems suspiciously focused on bear activity.) And the MacGuffin treasure that he’s hunting is a white Russian fortune—a subtle nod to the fact that Britain’s history with political and wartime refugees started much earlier than the 21st century.