Paddington 2 movie review

For inSing

PADDINGTON 2

Director : Paul King
Cast : Ben Whishaw, Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Brendan Gleeson, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent, Peter Capaldi, Hugh Grant, Madeleine Harris, Samuel Joslin
Genre : Comedy/Family
Run Time : 1h 44m
Opens : 7 December 2017
Rating : PG

Everyone’s favourite marmalade-loving Peruvian bear is back on the big screen. Unfortunately, he finds himself in the big house, too. Paddington (Ben Whishaw) is thrown in prison, after being framed for a robbery he did not commit. His adoptive family, comprising Henry (Hugh Bonneville), Mary (Sally Hawkins), Judy (Madeleine Harris) and Jonathan (Samuel Joslin) Brown, plus housekeeper Mrs Bird (Julie Walters), must clear Paddington’s name. Paddington must find a way to foil the dastardly plans of Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant), a fading actor who will stop at nothing to acquire a priceless treasure. While in prison, the cuddly little bear must defend himself from various nasty types, including the imposing prison chef Knuckles McGinty (Brendan Gleeson). With a positive attitude, good manners, and a little help from people who care about him, Paddington just might survive this ordeal.

After the runaway success of 2014’s Paddington, a sequel was inevitable. We can’t stop the cynics from viewing this film as a shameless cash-grab, but we don’t have to. Paddington 2 does a fine job of that all by itself. This is a film that brims with heart, is ever-so-English, impeccably acted, and not too sickeningly twee. Like its predecessor, there’s also a sweet pro-inclusivity message, conveyed by way of Peter Capaldi’s Mr. Curry, who hates Paddington just because he’s an immigrant.

On top of that, Paddington 2 is hilarious. Director and co-writer Paul King, who also helmed the first Paddington film, delivers a delightfully witty movie that features a mix of expertly-choreographed physical comedy set-pieces and clever wordplay. The film is a masterclass in the art of the setup and the payoff – things that register at first as silly details later become important in the plot, and it snaps together in such a satisfying way. The action-packed finale plays like a cross between the climactic scene of Back to the Future Part III and the opening set-piece of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

The first Paddington movie was going to star Colin Firth as the voice of the loveable bear, and Ben Whishaw was brought on as a last-minute replacement. Whishaw is effortlessly sweet and earnest without it coming off as an affectation. The computer-generated effects seem to have improved since the last movie, and it’s easy to buy Paddington as an actual character. While it’s not as photo-real as the work in War for the Planet of the Apes (nor is it intended to be), this reviewer found himself as invested in Paddington’s journey as he was in Caesar’s.

The stable of talented English actors who fill the supporting cast returns from the first film, with the addition of a few big names. Bonneville plays the pragmatic patriarch who, after years in the insurance business, has lost his taste for whimsy. Hawkins serves as a foil as the warm-hearted Mary. Walters is endlessly amusing as the plucky Mrs Bird, while Capaldi is as crotchety as he can be without Malcolm Tucker-style swearing.

Hugh Grant is the runaway scene-stealer. He gamely sends up his own career, playing a self-obsessed actor whose glory days are far behind him. Seeing as Grant was one of the hottest stars of the 90s and saw his stock fall after personal scandals and massive flops, it’s admirable that he’s willing to poke fun at himself. Not only that, he appears to be having a grand old time doing so. As excellent as Nicole Kidman was in the first film, Grant’s villainous turn handily one-ups hers.

Brendan Gleeson is also a joy to watch as the widely-feared prison cook whom Paddington gamely tries to befriend. All the actors seem to enjoy being a part of the project, and nobody looks like they’ve been forced to put on a happy face.

Given the current political and pop culture climate, few things are cynic-proof. There are popular YouTube channels dedicated to mercilessly dismembering every last thing anyone finds remotely enjoyable, and plenty of think-pieces endeavour to do the same. Paddington 2 is a shining light in this fog of scoffing and irony. What the film possesses in sincerity, it matches in technical accomplishment and engaging storytelling. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll feel the warm fuzzies.

In a year that’s given us some surprising, spectacular blockbusters, Paddington 2 might not be a shock to the system, but it shouldn’t be. It should be a hug, and that it certainly is. The film is dedicated to the memory of Paddington creator Michael Bond, who passed away just before filming wrapped. If future Paddington movies are anywhere as good as this, his legacy is in the safest paws.

RATING: 4.5 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong

Viceroy’s House

For F*** Magazine

VICEROY’S HOUSE 

Director : Gurinder Chadha
Cast : Hugh Bonneville, Gillian Anderson, Manish Dayal, Huma Qureshi, Michael Gambon, Simon Callow, Lily Travers, Om Puri, Tanveer Ghani, Denzil Smith, Neeraj Kabi
Genre : Drama/History
Run Time : 1h 47min
Opens : 8 June 2017
Rating : PG

Director Gurinder Chadha takes us inside the Viceroy’s House amidst the tumult of the Partition of India. It is 1947, and Lord Mountbatten (Bonneville), the last Viceroy of India, has arrived in New Delhi with his wife Lady Edwina Mountbatten (Anderson) and their daughter Pamela (Travers). Mountbatten is tasked with overseeing the English withdrawal from India, after a 300-year presence in the country. As unrest among the Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims erupts across the nation, Muhammad Ali Jinnah (Smith) of the All-India Muslim League champions the formation of Pakistan, a nation-state for the Muslim minority to call home. Mountbatten meets with Jinnah, Jawaharlal Nehru and Mohandas Gandhi (Kabi), as the schedule for Independence is moved up.

In the meantime, Jeet Kumar (Dayal), a new arrival on the staff of the Viceroy’s House, falls in love with Aalia Noor (Qureshi), an assistant to Pamela. Jeet was a prison guard who was sympathetic towards Aalia’s blind father Ali Rahim Noor (Puri) when he was imprisoned. However, their love is forbidden because Jeet is Hindu and Aalia is Muslim. Furthermore, Aalia is promised to Asif (Arunoday Singh), who has just returned from combat overseas. With the tension manifesting itself within the over 500-strong staff of the residence, Mountbatten finds himself in a house, and a nation, divided.

The Partition is a historical event that has repercussions to this day, and this year marks its 70th anniversary. It is understandable that Viceroy’s House would be controversial, with some accusing the film of being revisionist history. Pakistani poet and member of the Bhutto political dynasty Fatima Bhutto decried Viceroy’s House as a “servile pantomime”. Director Chadha, who co-wrote the screenplay with her husband Paul Mayeda Berges, and Moira Buffini, took inspiration from the non-fiction books The Shadow of the Great Game: The Untold Story of India’s Partition by Narendra Singh Sarila and Freedom at Midnight by Dominique Lapierre and Larry Collins. This reviewer will admit to knowing very little about the Partition of India, and is frantically researching as he types. What we’re sure of is that as with every historical occurrence, there are a great many sides to the story. Chadha is cognisant of this, opening the film with the quote “history is written by the victors”. However, there’s a niggling lack of authenticity, a sense that this is a skewed point of view.

Viceroy’s House is an ambitious undertaking, because it attempts to neatly package deeply complicated politics and tragedy on a vast scale into a Merchant Ivory-style period piece. It’s clear that Chadha did not set out to misrepresent or offend anyone – in 2005, Chadha visited her grandfather’s home in Pakistan for the documentary series Who Do You Think You Are? This was the home he was forced to vacate when he was displaced during Partition. While Chadha’s personal connection to the story cannot be denied, there are times when it seems she has bitten off more than she can chew. Perhaps this story would be more suited to a miniseries format, as there so many players and moving parts.

While actual historical figures play an important role in the plot of Viceroy’s House, the romance between Jeet and Aalia is the audience’s way in. Both Dayal and Qureshi are lively, watchable performers and they lend this love story its sweet and moving moments, but it’s obvious that this fictional subplot was tacked on to add accessibility. There’s every chance that a relationship like Jeet and Aalia’s could have developed in the actual Viceroy’s House, but this is a device that’s recognisable from many earlier historical films. It’s not the best comparison, but think Jack and Rose in Titanic, or the recent film Bitter Harvest about the Holodomor genocide-famine in Soviet Ukraine. Instead of adding humanity, this sometimes-clumsily executed romance adds artifice.

The cast makes one wish this were a six episode-long TV event, because then we’d get more time to see the character dynamics play out. Mountbatten is depicted as a man of noble intentions, and that everything that went awry during the Partition was a result of him being kept in the dark. It seems most historians beg to differ. Bonneville is refined and respectable, but not terribly interesting. Anderson’s Lady Mountbatten is shown as striving to be inclusive and to understand the plight of everyday Indian people, eager to go beyond the walls of the House. Travers’ Penelope is a little bit of a spoiled princess, but ends up being pleasant to watch.

Smith is a charismatic presence as Jinnah, the film taking the effort to flesh out his arguments. Kabi is convincing as Gandhi, having also played the role in the television series Samvidhaan: The Making of the Constitution of India. Viceroy’s House marks one of the final film appearances of the late Om Puri, a towering figure in Indian cinema. As Ali Rahim Noor, Puri exudes good natured wisdom.

Throughout Viceroy’s House, one can sense the filmmakers tiptoeing through history, afraid to make any bold statements. The film is lovely to look at, with location filming in Rajasthan, India lending it high production values. However, it also feels distant and rigid. Even though this is a subject close to Chadha’s heart, it’s one that’s difficult to explore – let alone in the relatively brief 106-minute running time of the film. It’s a film about a fraught period in history which, any way one looks at is, is challenging to portray objectively and coherently.

Summary: Viceroy’s House appears to simplify and sanitize the complex conflict that precipitated the Partition of India, but it functions competently as a period drama.

RATING: 3 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong