Could it be that Hugh Grant was born to play a villainous dandy in a kids' movie? He seems to be having the time of his life hamming it up in "Paddington 2" as a pretentious, has-been actor who's now relegated to dressing up like a spaniel for dog-food commercials. His delight is contagious.
The family-friendly sequel to the 2014 film about a talking bear cub - already a monster hit in England, as well as a BAFTA nominee for best British movie - is a charmer from its first action-packed frames to its over-the-top jailhouse-musical scene during the end credits.
The heart of the movie, directed by Paul King, is again the title character (voiced by Ben Whishaw): an exceedingly polite but flamboyantly clumsy talking bear from Peru who now lives full-time in London with the Brown family. He has won over just about everyone within a 1-mile radius - except for a nosy neighbor (Peter Capaldi), who might as well be called Mr. Brexit for his suspicious view of outsiders - as he pals around with the garbage collector, random bike commuters and the local antiques dealer, Mr. Gruber (Jim Broadbent).
It's at Gruber's oddities shop that the story gets started, as Paddington comes across a gorgeous pop-up book he wants to buy for his beloved Aunt Lucy - the bear who raised him, voiced by Imelda Staunton - for her 100th birthday. The only problem is the unaffordable price. Paddington starts taking odd jobs to save up, but before he can buy the one-of-a-kind present, the devious Phoenix Buchanan (Grant) swoops in and steals the treasure for mysterious reasons.
That's bad enough, but it gets worse: The police collar Paddington for the crime and send him to prison. Brown family matriarch Mary (Sally Hawkins) sets about trying to prove her adopted son's innocence. In the meantime, the furry marmalade addict has to learn to make it alone behind bars.
It won't be easy.
"Paddington 2" leans a little heavily on its simplistic message: There's good in everyone.
Still, that's worth remembering during these divisive times. Maybe all it needs is a lovable bear to drive the point home.