WITH more British celebrity cameos than you shake a marmalade smeared paw at and a thoroughly heartwarming story, Paddington 2 will leave you charmed.

You do not need to have kids to be endeared to the late Michael Bond’s clumsy but well-meaning bear from darkest Peru who builds a new life for himself in London. Director Paul King, who was previously best known for surreal comedy The Mighty Boosh, lovingly brought Paddington to life on film for the first time in 2014.

Despite the tendency for many children’s movies to be cynical cash-ins with half-baked stories, King broke the trend with a tale that was cute, funny and found the right balance between borrowing from the books and finding its own feet.

Remarkably, Paddington 2 is even better thanks largely to a returning cast, including Ben Whishaw as the voice of the polite, duffle coat-wearing bear, who have found their groove and are clearly having a great time.

You cannot help but smile at Hugh Bonneville and Sally Hawkins as Paddington’s adoptive parents Mr and Mrs Brown. And Hugh Grant relishes his role as Phoenix Buchanan, an exaggerated, washed-up, villainous version of himself.

The film sees Paddington on the wrong side of the law when he is mistaken for a book thief. The book in question is a present for his Aunt Lucy’s 100th birthday which just so happens to hold the secret of a long lost treasure.

Full of mischief and fun, Paddington 2 is well paced and has an immaculately constructed plot that will both dazzle kids and keep adults engaged at the same time. No mean feat.

Among the best scenes are Paddington’s prison sequences including his disastrous laundry duty. And the little bear’s encounter with Knuckles the prison chef will have audience members of any age in stitches.

On top of that, Paddington 2’s moving subtext about tolerance and compassion holds more power in the wake of the Brexit vote, the deep divides in our country and the way immigrants are sometimes viewed with suspicion.

This inward way of looking at the world is embodied in Paddington’s neighbourhood by the fearful idiocy of Peter Capaldi’s Mr Curry.

And superb animated segments and the film’s deeply moving ending will knock even those with hardened hearts for six.

RATING: 8.5/10