Paddington 2

Posted on January 11, 2018 at 5:04 pm

B +
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for some action and mild rude humor
Profanity: Some mild language
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Mild peril, no one hurt, reference to sad death
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: January 12, 2018
Date Released to DVD: April 22, 2018
Copyright Warner Brothers 2017

You know what we don’t see enough of in movies?  Whimsy.  Movies, especially movies for families, don’t trust the audience enough to step away from the dazzle and the pratfall.  As entertaining as that can be, it is a relief to see Paddington 2, a movie that trusts us enough to keep its tone gentle and, yes, whimsical.  And that makes it utterly beguiling.

There is a very brief refresher to introduce us to the backstory of the marmalade-loving Peruvian bear.  An Anglophile bear couple rescues a little cub and cancels their planned trip to London to raise him.  And then we catch up to Paddington.  His adoptive father has died and his adoptive mother, Aunt Lucy (voice of Imelda Staunton) has moved to an assisted living home in Peru.  Paddington, now living with the Brown family, is a cherished part of the neighborhood, always looking out for the members of the community.  Just one neighbor, cranky Mr. Curry (Peter Capaldi), a nosy self-appointed community watchman, keeps insisting that Paddington should not be there.

When the local antique shop receives a one-of-a-kind pop-up book showing London’s most iconic locations, Paddington realizes that it is the perfect gift for Aunt Lucy, who always dreamed of London but never been able to visit.  We go inside the book in an enchanting animated sequence, moving in and out of the beautifully crafted pop-ups.  Paddington takes jobs as a barber’s assistant and a window washer to earn the money to buy the book for his aunt, but things do not go very well and there are some mild slapstick catastrophes.

And then Paddington catches a thief stealing the pop-up book and in trying to catch him appears to be the culprit himself.  He is sentenced to prison, where things do not go well until his optimism and generosity — and recipe for marmalade, endear him to everyone, even the hot-tempered chef (Brendan Gleeson).  Paddington likes to quote Aunt Lucy, who said, “If you’re kind and polite, the world will be right.”

Hugh Grant has found his very best role as Phoenix Buchanan, a formerly successful actor with a plummy accent reduced to dog food commercials (wearing a dog suit), and a master of disguise who knows that the pop-up-book has a secret message leading to a cache of jewels.  It is impossible to imagine whether he or costume designer Lindy Hemming had more fun with the sheer preposterousness of Buchanan’s pretensions and wildness of his various get-ups, even when he is not in costume.  There’s a Da Vinci code-like treasure hunt as Buchanan tries to solve the puzzle before the Browns can track down the real thief and exonerate Paddington.  Oh, and Mr. Brown needs to resolve a bit of a mid-life crisis, Mrs. Brown wants to swim the Channel, the Brown children need to learn a couple of lessons, and there’s even a bit of a romance.  Plus, Aunt Lucy’s birthday is coming!

The movie follows its own advice, with kindness and courtesy in its story and story-telling, and the result is as irresistible as a marmalade sandwich proffered by a bear in a red hat.

NOTE: Stay for the credits and a delightful musical number

Parents should know that there is some mild gross-out humor and some peril and violence (no one badly hurt).

Family discussion: How can you follow Aunt Lucy’s advice to look for the good in people, and to be kind and polite?  Who do you know who follows those rules?

If you like this, try: the first “Paddington” movie and the books

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DVD/Blu-Ray Pick of the Week Scene After the Credits

The Tempest

Posted on December 9, 2010 at 8:43 pm

B+
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for some nudity, suggestive content and scary images
Profanity: None
Alcohol/ Drugs: Characters get drunk
Violence/ Scariness: Shipwreck, fighting, threats of murder
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: December 10, 2010
Date Released to DVD: September 12, 2011
Amazon.com ASIN: B004M9ZI0M

Director Julie Taymor (Broadway’s “The Lion King”) has a gorgeous visual imagination and a love of spectacle, both lavishly on display in the latest version Shakespeare’s final play, the story of a sorcerer’s revenge. But she uses it to enhance, not distract from the real magic of dazzling language spoken by magnificent actors.

The play’s Duke-turned wizard Prospero now becomes Prospera (Dame Helen Mirren), the wife of the Duke who was so distracted by her study of magic that her position was usurped by her husband’s brother, Antonio (Chris Cooper). She escaped with her daughter Miranda, with the help of the king’s adviser, Gonzalo (Tom Conti). For twelve years, they have been living on an island, cared for by a sprite named Ariel (Ben Wishaw) and the son of a witch named Caliban (Djimon Hounsou). Miranda barely knows that any other world exists.

Returning home by ship after a wedding, Antonio, Gonzalo, the King (David Straithairn), and their courtiers encounter a storm called up by Prospera, and they are shipwrecked and separated, each fearing all the others have died. Promising Ariel and Caliban their freedom if they help her, Prospera directs — and misdirects — the bewildered survivors. She puts Miranda in the path of the king’s son, Ferdinand (Reeve Carney), and they fall instantly in love. Prospera is delighted, but pretends to be angry and orders him to hard labor: “this swift business I must uneasy make, lest too light winning make the prize light.”

Meanwhile, the king and Gonzalo are searching for Ferdinand, with Antonio and the king’s brother, Sebastian (Alan Cumming), who realize that if they can kill the other two, Sebastian will be king. Prospera stops them with magic.

And then there is Trinculo (Russell Brand), the jester and Stephano (Alfred Molina), the drunken butler. They find Caliban, who is happy to switch his allegiance to them, especially when they give him his first taste of liquor.

Mirren is fiery and magesterial, holding her magic staff to the sky and commanding Ariel and Caliban. But she shows us Prospera’s devotion to Miranda and recognition that she contributed to her fate by allowing herself to be too caught up in magic to notice that Antonio was betraying her. She understands that the price for this greatest display of her art and her gifts so that she can return home will be to give it all up forever. The young lovers are a little bland, but the rest of the cast is exceptional — and surprisingly organic, considering that it includes classically-trained British stage actors like Mirren, Cumming, and Molina with American performers Cooper and Straithairn, three-continent Honsou and all-around wild child Brand. The visual touches perfectly evoke the themes of order and chaos, with Escher-esque steps vertiginously reaching bannister-less up the walls, found object-based props, and Prospera’s final costume, a fabulous mixture of natural material and tight, civilizing straps and stays.

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