Paddington 2 is a warm and fuzzy joy

Warner Bros

Warner Bros

Hugh Grant plays the preening thespian with unabashed camp and more than a little self-parody, and it's up to Paddington and the Browns to thwart this narcissistic master of disguise and clear the bear's good name.

Phoenix knows something that Paddington doesn't, though.

Hitting theaters on Friday, the sequel to 2014′s smash "Paddington" thankfully (North American distribution rights were sold to Warner Bros.) to bring us another story about, voiced by Ben Whishaw. Paddington was exactly the kind of ambitious, hilarious, charming, and expertly crafted bits of cinema that the world needs more of: family entertainment that doesn't talk down to kids, is made with the utmost care for the audience and characters, and entertains adults just as effortlessly.

The father, Henry (Hugh Bonneville), is an insurance risk analyst in a midlife funk, while mother Mary (Sally Hawkins) is a children's-book illustrator seeking her own adventure.

To this day you can still get Paddingtons in wellingtons, most notably from the kiosk in Paddington station, and it's all thanks to the Clarksons. Buchanan is running around London trying to find clues to the hidden treasure. The desperation of the prisoners is portrayed perfectly by Brendan Gleeson, who plays Knuckles the chef, who is as scary looking as the food he serves.

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Back at the prison, Paddington has made the inmates much more friendly and comfortable but has trouble keeping faith when the Browns can't prove he isn't guilty. Peter Capaldi's odious neighborhood watchman, delighted to have cause for trumpeting his bigoted worldview, spits out Paddington's adopted surname -"Brown"- like the slur he wants it to be. Indeed, the movie is filled with surreal set-pieces ranging from an extended Charlie Chaplain homage as Paddington worms his way through a series of gears in a clock, to a collection of delightfully freakish heist sequences, plenty of slapstick, and even a few genuinely exciting action scenes. Paddington can be himself, an anthropomorphic bear everyone loves and indulges, because he's lifted by a brilliant cast. After all, it was Aunt Lucy (voiced by Imelda Staunton) who instilled him with the moral compass that gets his through life, and who's wisdom he can never resist sharing. Those that have seen the first movie know that Paddington is incredibly well-mannered and wants to please everyone he meets.

Even more than the pretty pictures and wonderful performances, the heart, soul and themes of "Paddington 2" resonate most deeply. If you haven't seen "Paddington" in its 2015 theatrical release or recent life online (it's now a featured title on Netflix), you're not ready for the second chapter. Gleeson and Walters steal every scene they're in (even against Whishaw's still resounding lovable voicework), but it's Grant who truly shines brightest here. The film is a heartfelt effort to inject a dash of goodness into the world and leave behind a kind message.

Paddington may wind up behind bars, but this craftily plotted movie is liberated from that point onward. If the first "Paddington" seemed to channel the hand-crafted visuals and teeming, symmetrical frames of Wes Anderson, then "Paddington 2" somehow succeeds in pushing that stylization to a dazzling new level of aesthetic delirium, albeit with an unforced, lyrical sweetness in lieu of Anderson's studied detachment. Paddington 2 has a lot of worthy ones - the importance of kindness, family, and, heck, even saving money to get a thoughtful gift for someone who means something to you.

"People have been calling it the "Godfather: Part II" of the family movie genre, which is praise indeed", Bonneville said.

The plot is simple, but it is done in a way that is clever and gives you moments where you feel for the bear. And yes, if you're a fan of the BBC's "Top Gear" and Amazon's "The Grand Tour".

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