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Paddington 2 (2017)

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 4/24/2018

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 4/17/2018

The dust still hasn't settled on the Harvey Weinstein sexual misconduct scandal, and there are already a slew of victims. From woman who were traumatized by his actions to those in the Weinstein Company who lost their jobs to the movies which will forever by tainted by his involvement, a great many people were effected by this scandal. Yes, a great many people...and one bear. Paddington 2 was set to be released by The Weinstein Company, but due to the financial upheaval which accompanied the event surrounding Harvey Weinstein, they were forced to sell the film as part of a package deal. And while finding a new home for the bear had seemed simple enough, having a new company find a way to support the film was a different question all together. This may be why Paddington 2 had a fairly soft opening at the box office and we now know that it deserves to find a wider audience.

Paddington 2 takes place some time after the events of Paddington, as we find that the young bear (voiced by Ben Whishaw) has settled in nicely with the Brown family -- Henry (Hugh Bonneville), Mary (Sally Hawkins), Judy (Madeleine Harris), Jonathan (Samuel Joslin), and Mrs. Bird (Julie Walters). Paddington's friend, Mr. Gruber (Jim Broadbent) shows Paddington a very detailed pop-up book, which the bear feels would make a perfect birthday present for his Aunt Lucy (voiced by Imelda Staunton). So, Paddington decides to get a job and buy the book. Meanwhile, the family meets their new neighbor, an actor named Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant), an eccentric, self-centered man. When the pop-up book is stolen, Paddington is the prime suspect and he and his family must work to clear his name.

Due to a lot of bad apples, family or children's entertainment has gotten a bad rap. Pedestrian stories, bad acting, and an overall dismissal of quality is a hallmark of many of these projects and the conceit seems to be that kids will watch anything. (Scroll through the live-action family films on your favorite streaming service and see how many actually look watchable.) Paddington 2 is the antithesis of all of those notions, as it shows that when true care is put into a project like this, the end result will be a quality product.

The first thing which must be examined is the script by Paul King and Simon Farnaby. Yes, the overall plot is somewhat cliched and it features tropes that we've seen many times before, most notably the idea of someone being falsely accused of a crime. But, this familiar story is chock full of little details, the kind which support the notion that a well-thought-out script will increase the chances of a good movie. The first act is filled with notions -- some big, some small -- which come back later in the movie. The idea of this kind of "call back" is not new, but, when done right, it can elicit a knowing nod from the viewer, who thinks, "I remember that." The movie also shows that you can have character development without spending an inordinate amount of time exploring everyone's personalities.

The cast of Paddington 2 also helps to make the film shine, as it's obvious that every actor in England has been obligated to appear in this film. That's an exaggeration of course, but the movie doesn't shy away from bringing in truly talented people, some of whom are acting against type, and this only boosts the material. As noted in the first film, it's great to see Downton Abbey's Hugh Bonneville doing slapstick opposite a CG bear. Brendan Gleeson, who had already made his mark in this genre by appearing in the Harry Potter series, also gets a bit goofy here. It's great to see Hugh Grant back on-screen, as he hams it up and is completely believable as desperate Phoenix Buchanan. Having seen The Shape of Water, Sally Hawkins' presence is a bit awkward.

But, of course, the star here is Paddington. The visual effects which bring him to life are excellent and, a few moments aside, we feel like he is part of the world we are seeing. But, even more than that, Paddington's positive attitude and outlook on life truly permeate the film. Some may see it as a naive message, but the film's idea that one can positively influence their surroundings is one which is certainly welcomed today. (Even if the movie does make prison look like an OK place.) Funny, charming, and quirky all in the right amounts, Paddington 2 is that rare film which can be enjoyed by kids and adults alike.

Paddington 2 implies that British prison authorities don't look under hats on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 35 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look excellent, most notably the reds and blues, and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is very good, as we can make out textures on objects, and the depth is notable. The Disc carries a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The track doesn't hold back from delivering detailed effects during the finale, where we are treated to surround and subwoofer action which places us in the middle of the scene. The score sounds fine and the stereo effects highlight sounds coming from off-screen.

The Paddington 2 Blu-ray Disc contains several extra features. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director/Co-Writer Paul King. "Paddington: The Bear Truth" (5 minutes) has the filmmakers and actors discussing what makes Paddington such a special character and the challenge of acting with a CG co-star. "How to Make a Marmalade Sandwich" (3 minutes) is child's guide to creating Paddington's favorite food. "Music Video with Phoenix Buchanan" (2 minutes) offers a closer look as the scene which appears during the closing credits. "The Magical Mystery of Paddington's Pop-up Book" (3 minutes) takes a closer look at the book and the challenge of bringing it to life in 3D. "The Browns and Paddington: A Special Bond" (6 minutes) has the actors in Paddington's family talking about what it was like coming back into Paddington's world. "Knuckles: A Fistful of Marmalade" (3 minutes) has Brendan Gleeson talking about his character. "The (Once) Famous Faces of Phoenix Buchanan" (4 minutes) takes us into the world of Hugh Grant's character and his eccentricities.

Review Copyright 2018 by Mike Long