Give this bear a hug: 'Paddington 2' is a whimsical delight

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Paddington 2 is the live-action sequel about the beloved British Paddington Bear. Paul King's adaptation of the classic character was distinctly British in its humor, but universal in its emotional core where a lost little bear found a family.

Alas, neither Paddington's short-lived experience as a barber's assistant nor his more enjoyable stint as a window washer could possibly earn him enough to afford such a treasure.

Paddington Brown (Ben Whishaw) wants to get the flawless birthday present for his Aunt Lucy (Imelda Staunton), and he thinks he's found it when he comes across a pop-up book featuring landmarks of London.

Grant appears in the utterly delightful Paddington 2 as the new antagonist, a self-involved theater actor named Phoenix Buchanan whose glory days are long since behind him.

Paddington knows he's found a victor when he uncovers a unique pop-up book in an antique shop, the cost of which will require him to take on a myriad of odd jobs throughout the community. But along the way, he gets framed and thrown into prison himself, where the film follows his adventures trying to fit in with the other inmates, particularly the gruff cook Knuckles (Brendan Gleeson), ingratiating himself with his magic recipe for those marmalade sandwiches that is a lot better than the slop he has been serving up. If you have nieces and nephews, take them.

As for Hawkins, who can presently be seen in a decidedly less family-friendly creature feature called "The Shape of Water", she remains the loveliest, most empathetic of contemporary screen heroines, an intrepid adventurer who is also a nurturing spirit.

This movie has many different sensations that change throughout the film.

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"When Paul [King] and Simon [Franaby] were writing the script, they wanted to create the character of a vain, over-the-top, over-the-hill, completely past it, neurotic, has-been actor". But part of "Paddington 2's" appeal is this very simplicity, its earnest desire to be a fun and easily digestible outing for the whole family.

Paddington 2 is certified fresh on Rottentomatoes with 100% approval rating. Like the first Paddington, the sequel has a Wes Anderson-style attention to detail and a keen eye for quirky visuals, thanks to King and his returning collaborators behind the camera (including, cinematographer Erik Wilson and production designer Gary Williamson). How Paddington clears his name alongside the Brown family's amateur detective work and the help from his rough but soft-hearted friends from the prison, forms the witty, albeit slender narrative thread. As you may know Paddington is a very polite bear who can get along with anyone. There are slapstick hijinks and silly scenarios aplenty, but at its heart "Paddington 2" has something serious to say about making the world a better place through daily acts of kindness.

The original "Paddington Bear" was a TV show in England from 1976-1993. The main culprit? Why, it's a hilariously hammy actor played by Hugh Grant.

The sequel also gets a stronger villain in High Grant's delightfully daft and dastardly Phoenix Buchanan, an aging thespian who has hung up Yorick's skull and given up Hamlet for dog food commercials. Grant tells us how he was approached for the role with a letter saying he'd be flawless for the role of a washed up actor.

In the end, Paddington 2 is a heartwarming and pretty amusing thriller that'll leave you feeling warm inside on a cold winter day.

Paddington 2 is sweet without being diabetic and endearing without being manipulative. Paddington 2 is a victor. Opens Friday at GTA theatres.

"Paddington", a Warner Bros. release, is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America for "some action and mild rude humor".

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