The first Paddington movie (2014) broke new ground in all-ages entertainment - it was uncynical and funny, created without inside jokes for grown-ups, nods to pop culture or caffeinated zaniness.
It carried the spirit of Disney family pictures and Pixar animation, but was filtered through an English sense of humour.
Director Paul King returns for the sequel and while the movie has much of the same tone as the original, it feels less fresh. It still stands head and shoulders above most recent kid-oriented fare from Hollywood, however.
The utopian London is still there. It is a racially diverse and peaceful place where middle-class folk can still afford to live in townhouses - and the cub is done with fitting in.
He wants to find work so he can send his beloved aunt Lucy, still in Peru, a birthday present.
The quest soon lands him in hot water, but not before he takes on work, such as window-cleaning and hair-cutting, to raise funds. These ventures, of course, lead to a series of calamities.
Director King, as he did in the first movie, draws on his love of the comedies of the silent era. There is an inspired slapstick bit here involving a rope, ladder and a pail of window-cleaning soap water that is something that Buster Keaton or Laurel and Hardy might have done.
REVIEW / COMEDY
PADDINGTON 2 (PG)
104 minutes/Opens tomorrow
The story: Following the events of the first movie, the cub Paddington (voiced by Ben Whishaw) is now a member of the Brown family. With his aunt Lucy's birthday approaching, he yearns to buy her an expensive pop-up book. Meanwhile, the Browns - father Henry (Hugh Bonneville), mother Mary (Sally Hawkins), daughter Judy (Madeleine Harris) and son Jonathan (Samuel Joslin) - are each caught up in his own problems.
Paddington dusts himself off and relies on the power of friendship to see him through, especially from the Browns and his neighbours.
Hugh Grant appears as the villainous Phoenix Buchanan, reminding everyone that the best Grant is the Grant given free rein.
He gives a lighter-than-air performance as a greedy, self-absorbed actor, a feat that he achieves, amazingly, without winking at the audience.
The suspense-thriller plot involving a frame-up is throwaway for anyone older than 12, but there is so much going on - the Wes-Anderson-meets-Studio-Ghibli visuals, the skits, Grant's over-the-top work - that the older ones will be kept happy.