ALTHOUGH it was adapted from the late Michael Bond’s beloved source material, no-one was quite prepared for just how charming the first Paddington movie would turn out to be. It quickly warmed its way into the hearts of audiences and has already become a firm favourite for family movie nights everywhere.

So does the sequel match up? Thankfully the answer is a resounding yes. Any worries about it being a cynical cash grab can be put to bed as the sequel is every bit the irresistible adventure that the first one was.

The ever-courteous, marmalade sandwich-loving Paddington (voiced perfectly once again by Ben Wishaw) is still living happily with his adopted family, the Browns, in London’s idyllic, cheerily multicultural Windsor Gardens.

His beloved Aunt Lucy’s (Imelda Staunton) 100th birthday is fast approaching and he wants to send her something very special in the form of a London landmark pop-up book he discovers in old Mr Gruber’s (Jim Broadbent) antique shop. The trouble is that it’s rather expensive and so he decides he’ll find a job to pay for it, from window cleaner to barber, with typically disastrous results.

From this humble plot beginning sprouts an enchanting, hilarious and often genuinely thrilling epic adventure that involves a hysterically pompous has-been West End celebrity named Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant) who uses his attic full of disguises to steal the pop-up book that contains secret clues to a hidden treasure.

While not as dark as Nicole Kidman’s scary taxidermist of the previous film, Grant’s thespian villain is the comedic gift that keeps on giving.

When Phoenix manages to escape, leaving Paddington to take the blame for the theft, the bear finds himself sent to prison where he must co-exist with comically exaggerated lowlifes and brutes.

It’s a genius move that allows the brilliantly pitched sequel to up the ante while keeping things feeling personal since we’ve become so invested in the small bear’s life journey.

The old-fashioned prison locale is mined for all the silliness that it’s worth, not least with the introduction of Knuckles McGinty (played with pitch-perfect comic timing by Brendan Gleeson), the prison’s gruff cook who rules the other prisoners with an iron ladle but who’s won over by Paddington’s politeness and talent for making perfect marmalade.

Director Paul King returns to prove that the success of bringing the much-loved Peruvian bear to CGI-meets-live-action life was no mere fluke.

Working from a script co-written by Simon Farnaby, he once again brings a hugely rewarding blend of over-the-top slapstick misadventure that would make Charlie Chaplin proud, quick-witted gags for all ages and a fervent adherence to the theme of glass-half-full kindness towards and acceptance of others.

Paddington is a particularly welcome antidote to the state of the world and this joyful, effortlessly charming sequel is another great showcase of that.