“Paddington 2” lacks some of its predecessor’s spark. But it is so warm-hearted and well-acted (and animated) that the slight drop-off in quality hardly matters.
Sally Hawkins and Hugh Bonneville return from the first film as the Browns, who took in Paddington when he arrived in London from Peru. Hawkins, Bonneville and voice actor Ben Whishaw — who makes Paddington sound like the Geico gecko minus the attitude — give the film a strong base of kindness.
But it’s Hugh Grant’s delightful performance as Phoenix Buchanan, a vain thespian who lives near the Browns in London, that steals the show. Buchanan’s supposed humility is really humble bragging. But the Browns don’t notice, because they are guileless and think other people are, too.
Buchanan’s greed puts Paddington in the path of a criminal bear of a man (Brendan Gleeson). Grant lets the cranky but cuddly Gleeson steal “Paddington 2” for 10 minutes, before taking it back.
A treasure-map story line that might have been fun to follow is practically forgotten in favor of too many scenes of Paddington getting into mishaps. A bucket falls on his head, and a mountain of oranges on his small body — gags sure to please 4-year-olds. But the first “Paddington” appealed to adults as well, with its sharp comic dialogue. Here, only Grant and Gleeson get good lines.
But dialogue ceases to matter when “Paddington 2” shows close-ups of its animated bear and its exceptionally expressive eyes. So are Hawkins,’ and a soulful moment between actress and bear will melt your heart.
Rated PG. 1:43. AMC Classic, Fayette, Frankfort, Georgetown, Hamburg, Nicholasville, Richmond, Winchester.