In fact, all of the gang are back in London town as the 2014 hit Paddington gets the sequel it deserved.
Phoenix Buchanan, played wonderfully by Hugh Grant (The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Love Actually), is a former star actor, now starring in dog food commercials. Buchanan dreams of returning to the stage with his one-man performance featuring some of his better-known characters (you can see Grant in some of his characters here), the only problem is a complete lack of funds.
Meanwhile the owner of a circus that arrives in town drops off a number of items at Paddington’s favourite antiques store run by Jim Broadbent (Paddington, The Lady In The Van).
This is handy as Paddington, voiced by Ben Whishaw (Spectre, The Lobster), is attempting to find a suitably perfect birthday present for his Aunt Lucy, Imelda Staunton (Paddington, Pride), and finds, amongst the circus items, a rare pop-up book of London.
The only slight problem is that the book is rather expensive, given its rarity. This forces Paddington into finding a number of jobs, which don’t go the way he’d planned at all.
Come circus opening day, which Buchanan has been asked to preside over, he invites Paddington on stage to help and Paddington happens to mention the pop-up book he wants for his aunt. Buchanan though, knows more about the book and decides he wants it for himself, by stealing it.
Paddington witnesses Buchanan, who is in one of his many disguises and gets away, leaving Paddington to cop the blame for the break-in and theft. He’s subsequently sent to prison which is where we meet, amongst others, Knuckles McGinty, Brendan Gleeson (Assassin’s Creed, In Bruges), a hard-boiled, no-nonsense chef, who can’t cook.
With writer and director Paul King (Paddington, Bunny And The Bull) back, this time aided by Simon Farnaby (Mindhorn, Yonderland (TV)) on writing duties (who also turns up as a security guard), a very definite sense of continuity and style is present between the two films.
Paddington 2 is as sweet, gentle natured and good as the first outing and anyone worried about things becoming too saccharine or the same boards being trod can brush those fears aside.
It was a stroke of genius to cast Hugh Grant as the villain this time round. Presented as an actor who won’t work with others, he has kept many of his previous costumes and talks to himself in a variety of accents and personalities to match them. From Macbeth to Poirot and a nun to a homeless person, Grant relishes the opportunity to really ham things up and is a delight to watch.
He doesn’t bring the same level of fear or terror that Nicole Kidman (Lion, Stoker) brought last time, but he ramps up the fun level enormously, giving Paddinton 2 an enhanced sense of thrill and urgency this time round.
Whishaw adds the same level of sweetness, vulnerability and just the right amount of naivety to Paddington as we had first time round. His well-meaning nature means he finds himself in all sorts of situations, but none feel forced or unbelievable as these traits shine through.
There are a plethora of other, mostly British, actors from stage and screen though they are largely background characters in the main with Paddington, Buchanan, McGinty and the Brown family, Madeleine Harris (Paddington, Man Down (TV)), Samuel Joslin (The Impossible, Paddington), Sally Hawkins (The Shape Of Water, Godzilla), High Bonneville (Downton Abbey (TV), The Monuments Men) and Julie Walters (Harry Potter, Calendar Girls), taking centre stage.
Paddington 2 is a fine return for the marmalade loving bear from Peru and, in Hugh Grant, they’ve created a fabulous villain. There where so many other characters Grant had created for Buchanan that you wonder if they’ll think about bringing him back again for number 3.