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This year brings the return of the nation’s favourite marmalade-sandwich-munching bear, Paddington. Three years after the release of the first and surprisingly delightful film, the sequel has charmed the nation just as much as the first and has had a very successful six weeks at the box office, staying in the top two all the way. Garnering critical acclaim too, it seems Paddington 2 is set to steal the family crowd this Christmas, and I’m 100% on board with that.

2014’s Paddington was a breath of fresh air. He was such a polite young bear, and everywhere he went he just wanted to make friends. With an underlying message of embracing migrants and promoting inclusivity, it was a beacon of hope in an era of Farage – not to mention it was funny and charming to boot. After the surprise of its success, and the reputation of sequels to such surprise successes, there was a big question mark over whether Paddington 2 had any chance of living up to its predecessor.

Luckily, and very skilfully, the new instalment is just as good, if not better than the original in my eyes. The biggest difference is the villain: Paddington featured Nicole Kidman as an icy taxidermist hell-bent on capturing Paddington, and she always stuck out from the rest of the film as being too dark and not enjoyable enough. Her best scene is one she shares with Peter Capaldi’s Mr Curry, the Browns’ grumpy neighbour, and he brings all the comedy by falling head-over-heels for her.

In Paddington 2, it’s a whole different story; the villain is Phoenix Buchanan, a washed-up actor played by none other than Hugh Grant. He’s the perfect choice and throws himself into the role, fully aware of how well he matches the part. The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw claims he’s the best character in the film, and Grant slips into the story like Cinderella’s foot into the glass slipper, making the whole thing more complete.

And that’s just to start. The rest of the characters are fantastic too, each having their own moments and individual personalities. The Brown family are charming as ever, with the children now in secondary school with new interests and Mr and Mrs Brown taking up new hobbies, all of which tie beautifully into the story down the line. New side-characters include a group of criminals (including Brian Gleeson’s prison chef Knuckles) who Paddington befriends when he dyes their prison garments pink – a wonderful image.

All moments, large and small, shine with personality and good will. From the biggest train chase which manages to pack in high emotional stakes and perfectly-times humour, to the smallest interlude when Paddington disguises himself as a bin (my personal favourite), there’s great care in giving each scene a purpose and a reason for the audience to enjoy it. The whole thing moves like clockwork with a rollicking pace and will leave you grinning ear to ear (and most likely a little wet-eyed towards the end). As with the first, there’s always a theme of friendliness and faith in people that’s never shoved in your face. Paddington 2 does what any good film should; makes you feel deeply. It’s the sort of uplifting film everyone should see.

Paddington 2 is in more cinemas than ever across the UK. Image source: RadioTimes.com