It is not very often for sequel to better the first one. The sucess partly comes from the turbulent yet full of laughter storyline, and partly from the spot-on performance of Hugh Grant, which was unanimously applauded by the critics.
For the entirety of his career, Hugh Grant is trapped in rom-com playboy figure from stereotyped English upper-middle class, thanks to the success of "Four Weddings and a Funeral". The image was further reinforced by Bridget Jones and Love Actually. Because he is so dashingly handsome, the audience forget or choose to ignore how good he is as a comedian. All that have been remembered were his pretty face and trademark awkwardness.
On one of the promotion trips of his typical films, Hugh was interviewed by Jeremy Clarkson on Top Gear and became one of the rare guests who out-funned the host (Sir Terry Wogan, Michael Schumacher come to mind). He told self-deprecating jokes about the trouser department non-stop in a lively way with perfect delivery, just like any British stand-up comedian would do.
It wasn't until last year's Florence Foster Jenkins when critics and producers started to view him as a comic star. In this film Hugh was given the oppoturnity to explore the tragicomedy of an unfaithful yet doting trophy husband to a zany heiress -- a real-life human being rather than a papercut valentine.
In Paddingtong, Hugh reprised this actor role and improved on it. It is fair to say nobody plays an annoyingly self-important pass-the-prime A-list actor better than Hugh Grant. And by creating Phoenix he created the paradox of mocking someone who takes himself too seriously by not taking himself seriously. In a way Phoenix is a dark version of himself, yet Hugh transformed self-pitying and bitterness to affable narcissitism and quickwit, which made Phoenix such a lovable villain and thus lightend up the film.
This time Hugh Grant finally got the recognition for his comedian calibre that he desrves. After all, it is the comedian inside every Brit that made them so good at acting.