The family-friendly sequel to the 2014 film about a talking bear cub — already a monster hit in England, as well as a BAFTA nominee for best British movie — is a charmer from its first action-packed frames to its over-the-top jailhouse-musical scene during the end credits.
The heart of the movie, directed by Paul King, is once again the title character (voiced by Ben Whishaw): an exceedingly polite but flamboyantly clumsy talking bear from Peru who now lives full-time in London with the Brown family. He has won over just about everyone within a one-mile radius — with the exception of a nosy neighbor (Peter Capaldi), who might as well be called Mr. Brexit for his suspicious view of outsiders — palling around with the garbage collector, random bike commuters and the local antiques dealer, Mr. Gruber (Jim Broadbent).
That's bad enough, but it gets worse: The police collar Paddington for the crime and send him to prison. Brown family matriarch Mary (Sally Hawkins) sets about trying to prove her adopted son's innocence. In the meantime, the furry marmalade addict has to learn to make it alone behind bars.
It's not going to be easy. "Mrs. Brown usually reads me a story before bed," Paddington tells the warden, earnestly, while being escorted to his cell.
As you can imagine, the other inmates aren't easily won over by Paddington's favorite adages — "If we're kind and polite, the world will be right," he promises — but even they can't resist his adorable mug. Soon, Knuckles McGinty (Brendan Gleeson), the most fearsome of criminals, has come around.
As with the first installment, based on Michael Bond's series of children's books, the sequel is stunning to look at, with inventive, colorful sets and such crafty interludes as a sequence in which Paddington imagines himself and his Aunt Lucy frolicking through the pages of the elusive pop-up book.
"Paddington 2" leans a little heavily on its simplistic message: There's good in everyone. Still, that's worth remembering during these divisive times. Maybe all it needs is a lovable bear to drive the point home.
PG. At area theaters. Contains some action and mild rude humor. 103 minutes.