Updated: Sep 12, 2018
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / FRAME SHOTS
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD copy; 2017; PG for some action and mild rude humor; streaming via Amazon Video, FandangoNOW (4K), Google Play (4K), iTunes (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube
Best extra: Commentary with Director/Co-Writer Paul King
THE LITTLE brown bear with the red hat returns for another charm-filled outing in “Paddington 2.”
The new Paddington story, inspired by Michael Bond’s book series, stands alone very well. Newcomers both young and old can step in without a care. Bond, 91, passed away shortly before the film’s debut; however, in his commentary Director/Co-writer Paul King says he believes Bond would have enjoyed it as much as the first. The beloved author had the opportunity to see several scenes.
Paddington’s latest adventure takes us to Peru and his beginning, when he’s rescued by Aunt Lucy and Uncle Pastuzo, voiced by Imelda Staunton and Michael Gambon. Jump ahead to the present and we see Paddington has found a permanent home in London with the Brown family played by Sally Hawkins (“The Shape of Water”), Hugh Bonneville (“Downton Abbey”) Madeleine Harris and Samuel Joslin.
Voiced by Ben Whishaw, Paddington has made many friends in his neighborhood using a simple philosophy: “Aunt Lucy said, if we’re kind and polite the world will be right."
Paddington’s had a tremendous effect on Windsor Gardens and the people who live there, although they don’t always realize it,” King says in “The Challenges of Making the Film,” one of four bonus features on Warner Brothers’ release. “He’s one of those slightly unassuming figures, who probably does a hundred good deeds a day, most of which no one really notices.”
Paddington wants to purchase an expensive antique pop-up book for Aunt Lucy’s 100th birthday and sets about getting a job. But washed-up actor Phoenix Buchanan, now a shill for dog food, believes it contains a treasure map and wants the book for himself. Buchanan steals it, framing poor Paddington for the crime, who is tried and sent to prison. Hugh Grant plays the villain in high camp and a multitude of disguises.
Sharp viewers will note a dozen or so character parts and cameos from Julie Walters (Mrs. Bird), Jim Broadbent (Mr. Gruber), Peter Capaldi (mean Mr. Curry), Ben Miller (the Colonel). Joanna Lumley, Sanjeev Bhaskar, and Tom Conti.
Will Paddington make new friends at the prison? Chief thug Knuckles McGinty (Brendan Gleeson) is difficult to win over. Even the prison guards are afraid of him. Meanwhile, the Browns do all they can to find and capture the real criminal and set Paddington free.
“Paddington 2” is a pleasure to watch on Warner Brothers’ Blu-ray and Ultra 4K with HDR and Dolby Vision sourced from a 2K master. Unfortunately, the 4K (2.39:1 aspect ratio) is only available on streaming sites in the United States, with the disc available in Europe and Australia. Colors range from the bold and rich of Paddington’s red hat and blue coat to the subtle soft pink and gray of the prison uniforms. (A laundry issue with a red sock.) HDR toning gives color and detail an extra boost, making the picture brighter and more nuanced for the artist in us all.
Detail and depth are state-of-the-art on Blu-ray, and, again, even better looking in 4K. You can’t go wrong with either choice. King comments on how difficult it is to portray realistic fur on an animated character – especially wet fur. The quest for perfection pays off in this pristine blend of animation and live-action.
A clever sequence with Mr. Brown (Bonneville), in mid-life crisis mode, has him checking for wrinkles, trying a new hair color, fashion changes, face mask and … some king of yoga, which allows him to save the day near the end of the film. A golden-hued flashback with Mr. and Mrs. Brown show them in their hippie days of yore, where he was known as “Bullseye Brown,” with long hair and a mustache.
There’s a choice between Dolby Atmos and Dolby TrueHD 7.1 soundtracks on the Blu-ray. You get what you can when accessing the film on 4K streaming. Both are excellent providing clearly spoken dialogue and sound-around effects. Ambient sound wins in crowd, street, chase and fair scenes. “Wolfie” becomes Paddington’s noble steed to chase down Buchanan. The Irish wolfhound is part real dog and part animation as he’s become a bit long in the fang according to King. Chances are you won’t see a difference.
Height speakers deliver extra punch especially in the opening waterfall sequence. Grant’s Buchanan sneaks around in his various disguises, where more delicate immersive quality can be appreciated.
Most are short and sweet, outside of King’s conversational commentary, which includes production points, observations and anecdotes. “The Challenges of Making the Film” is a four-minute analysis of Paddington’s character that also shows how the animation was integrated into live-action. “He has a very unique mixture of British manners that’s been taught to him by Aunt Lucy, and probably a kind of wild bear openness and enthusiasm that the British don’t always have in abundance,” King says.
“How to Make a Marmalade Sandwich” has a recipe and shows how to make marmalade, Paddington’s favorite food. “The Browns and Paddington: A Special Bond” examines the relationship between the English family and their adopted bear. “Knuckles: A Fist Full of Marmalade” gives Brendan Gleeson the opportunity to discuss his character, Knuckles McGinty.
The pop-up book was an idea proposed for the first film that became the focus of “Paddington 2.” “The book is in some way a love letter to the original illustrations … but also … to the art design of the 1930s and those glorious pop-up books,” Production Designer Gary Williams says in “The Magical Mystery of Paddington’s Pop-Up Book.”
“The (Once) Famous Faces of Phoenix Buchanan” shows Hugh Grant in his various disguises. “We did have him in mind from day one of writing the script. The character was actually called ‘Hugh’ for a while,” King says. “Music Video with Phoenix Buchanan” demonstrates Grant’s new singing and dancing abilities. We get a glimpse in the end credits, along with character updates; this is the entire sequence. Don’t miss it.
A few of the U.S. bonus features don’t make it to the U.K. edition. However, “BAFTA Q&A with Producer David Heyman, Director Paul King, Co-writer Simon Farnaby, Hugh Grant and Animation Director Pablo Grillo” can only be found on the British Blu-ray and 4K release. Some information is repeated in the U.S. extras, when King references the small town settings of 1930s films by Frank Capra, where good-hearted characters find their way into cynical big city environments. Like George in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” the little bear has no idea how his simple acts of kindness shape his community.
What a big accomplishment for a little brown bear. “I think the most important lessons are really kindness, politeness and honesty because Paddington’s a very straightforward, honest bear,” Karen Jankel, daughter of Michael Bond says in “The Magical Mystery of Paddington’s Pop-Up Book.”
“He never works on the assumption that people are mean or out to get him or cross or anything like that. He thinks there’s good in everyone and, because he looks for it in people, he tends to find it,” King says.
— Kay Reynolds