PADDINGTON 2 (PG)
The bare necessities of a fulfilling life will come to you if you follow the paw prints of Michael Bond's beloved Peruvian bear.
So sayeth director Paul King's unabashedly sweet, wholesome and crowd-pleasing sequel that replicates the irresistible charm of the 2014 film, which introduced the duffel-coat clad hero to the big screen.
Paddington 2 is a lip-smacking, tear-jerking delight for audiences of all ages, which promotes compassion and understanding as the foundations of a truly great Britain.
It's a resolutely old-fashioned message of hope and community spirit, and a nimble script co-written by Simon Farnaby never deviates from trumpeting the central character's unerring optimism in an era of paranoia and selfish desires.
The pantomime villain this time is a scheming theatrical ham, played to the comic hilt by Hugh Grant, who dons a wimple and knight's armour to steal hidden treasure that should have been claimed by an ancestor.
The actor mercilessly pokes fun at himself - note the floppy-haired portrait from glory days in Four Weddings and A Funeral on the antagonist's mantelpiece.
Paddington (voiced by Ben Whishaw) is happily installed in the attic of 32 Windsor Gardens, family home of fuddy-duddy insurance assessor Henry Brown (Hugh Bonneville), his free-spirited wife Mary (Sally Hawkins) and their children, Judy (Madeleine Harris) and Jonathan (Samuel Joslin).
During a visit to antiques dealer Mr Gruber (Jim Broadbent), Paddington unearths an old 'popping book' of London, which would make the perfect present for Aunt Lucy (Imelda Staunton).
Alas, the rare one-of-a-kind tome is expensive.
Unperturbed, Paddington cleans windows for neighbours and wields a broom in a barber shop to meet the price tag.
Hilariously vain, fading actor Phoenix Buchanan (Grant) steals the rare edition and Paddington is wrongly sentenced to 10 years for 'grand theft and grievous barberly harm.'.
Behind bars, Paddington meets jailbird brute Knuckles McGinty (Brendan Gleeson), who 'don't do nothing for no one for nothing'.
The bear's innate goodness weakens Knuckles' resolve and they collaborate in the prison canteen to serve homemade confections to inmates.
Meanwhile, the Browns vow to clear Paddington's name and Mary identifies Phoenix as a prime suspect.
'Actors are some of the most evil, devious people on the planet,' agrees housekeeper Mrs Bird (Julie Walters). 'They lie for a living.'
Paddington 2 is a delightfully entertaining romp, distinguished by glorious set pieces including a wonderful fantasy sequence inside the pages of the antique pop-up book.
Colourful production design is almost as vivid as the performances including a roguish turn from Gleeson and physical pratfalls aplenty courtesy of Bonneville.
Once again, Whishaw's warm, soothing vocal performance tugs our heartstrings, adhering to the sage words of Aunt Lucy: 'If you're kind and polite, everything will come right.'.
King's fleet-footed sequel comes right with a marmalade-smeared flourish.
RATING : 8/10