Chuck Koplinski: Bear with me here: 'Paddington 2' is a joy

Chuck Koplinski: Bear with me here: 'Paddington 2' is a joy

From where I sit, nothing much makes sense in the world anymore.

I understand that I am getting older and find myself committing the sin of doing and thinking all of those things that I said I would never do or think.

I understand that I am not changing with the times and am becoming an anachronism with every second that goes by.

As a result, I find myself turning to more simplistic, pleasant things in order to cope with the chaos that surrounds me.

Case in point, I just finished Frances Hodgson Burnett's "Little Lord Fauntleroy," a children's classic that slipped by me as a youngster that I happened to see laying about the library.

It's simple, rather silly and antiquated, but its message of generosity and understanding is exactly what I needed to hear right now.

If you're in need of something similar, I can't recommend Paul King's "Paddington 2" enough.

Don't make the mistake of discounting this as a simple kid's movie; you'll be missing out on a genuinely imaginative, charming and inspiring film that delivers the sort of message the world needs right now. (If you need any more proof, it set the record as the most positively reviewed movie in the history of the Rotten Tomatoes website, wracking up 176 positive reviews against zero negative ones.)

Following up from the 2014 original, Paddington the bear (voiced by Ben Whishaw) has settled in with his adopted family, the Browns, and has become a regular part of their London neighborhood.

His Aunt Lucy is about to turn 100 years old and he decides to get her a special present —an antique pop-up book that features elaborate renditions of London landmarks, places she's wanted to see but has never been able to.

Unbeknownst to our ursine hero, down-on-his-luck actor Phoenix Buchanan (a wonderful Hugh Grant) has stolen the book, knowing it contains clues to the hiding place of a secret treasure, and set Paddington up to take the fall.

If seeing a brilliantly animated bear accidently ruin a magistrate's haircut by letting his clippers go awry or wash windows with his furry hindquarters is not your cup of tea, well more's the pity.

To be sure, Paddington's adventures are silly, especially when the poor guy ends up in prison and runs afoul of the cook, Knuckles McGinty (Brendan Gleeson), but they are rendered with such artistry and enthusiasm that it's impossible not to be won over.

The film helps cast a spell of good cheer as it's propelled by the bear that follows the Golden Rule, resulting in a tidal wave of optimism, offering up a ray of hope in our gloomy world.

I could probably count on one hand the number of movies that have made me smile from beginning to end and "Paddington 2" and its predecessor would be two of them.

That I shed a tear or three at the end of the film was due to its subtle, poignant conclusion as well as the fact that its message, revolving around how much happiness can be generated with a simple, kind turn, has become so rare in our day-to-day interactions.

"Paddington 2" provides a much-needed respite from the insanity that fills our days. Seeing it won't solve any of your problems, but it does offer a gentle, moving reminder of how a pleasant society operates and that's something.

'Paddington 2' (★★★1/2 out of four)

Cast: Ben Whishaw, Hugh Grant, Sally Hawkins, Brendan Gleeson, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Bonneville, Imelda Staunton and Michael Gambon.

Directed by Paul King; produced by David Heyman; screenplay by Simon Farnaby and King.

A Warner Brothers release. 104 minutes. Rated PG (some action and mild rude humor) At the AMC Champaign 13.

Also new in theaters

"Maze Runner" Goes Nowhere Fast with "Cure" (★★1/2 out of four). While the film adaptations of "The Hunger Games" took full advantage of the dystopian-adventure craze that swept through the youth-literature sector, the similarly plotted "Divergent" movies petered out, with the final segment, currently in production limbo, likely never to see the light of day.

"The Maze Runner" series falls somewhere in the middle in regards to its success and quality.

While the first entry proved to be a well-made, intriguing introduction to its plague-ridden world, the second segment, "The Scorch Trials," was an overlong, plodding affair that generated more yawns than thrills.

The final part of the franchise, "The Death Cure," combines the best qualities of the first entry and the worst elements of the second to create a curious film that effectively wraps up all of the story's narrative loose ends but makes the audience wait and wait and wait for its denouement.

Director Wes Ball does his level best to deliver the requisite overlong, overloud action sequences that are part-and-parcel of films of this sort but he's bogged down by the script from T.S. Nowlin, who must have loved every single aspect of James Dashner's novel that he didn't excise a single scene.

For those of you coming in late, the particular form of global crisis wiping the film's global population out is a disease known as the "Flare," which turns the afflicted into raging, uncontrollable zombies.

However, the secret to a cure lies in the blood of a select group of young people, including our hero Thomas (Dylan O'Brien) and his friend Minho (Ki Hong Lee), who happens to be a prisoner of WCKD, an organization that has no problem experimenting on and even killing children in their search for a cure.

While the kids' adult allies Vince (Barry Pepper) and Jorge (Giancarlo Esposito) are repairing a large ship to take all of the kids they've rescued off to paradise, Thomas and his crew decide they are going to break into WCKD to rescue their friend.

Needless to say, it doesn't go as smoothly as they thought so we're treated to a seemingly endless parade of chases, gun battles, fist fights and other assorted bits of action that, ironically, only succeed in moving the plot along at a glacial pace.

The film is acted in an acceptable manner, the production values are high, the action is, while repetitious, staged as it should be and the cast is appealing.

The problem, though, is Dystopian fatigue.

What with the above-mentioned franchises running their course, the continued saga of "The Walking Dead" continuing to unspool and the prospect of nuclear annihilation hanging over us all, there's no way "The Death Cure" could hope to bring anything new to the end-of-the word table.

It's the same old, same old where Armageddon is concerned, and making us hang around for two hours and 20 minutes to reach the end is a trial no one should have to endure.

For DVR alerts, film recommendations and movie news, follow Koplinski on Twitter (@ckoplinski). He can be reached via email at chuckkoplinski@gmail.com.

Topics (1):Film