While not the first film a college student would think of seeing, “Paddington 2” elicits a general feeling of wholesomeness that makes the admission price worth it.
From the first scene on, I was entranced by the simple charm of “Paddington 2.” It was almost culture shock going from the saccharine, caffeinated trailers that played in front of the movie to the gentle, thoroughly engaging world of Paddington.
“Paddington 2” is a charming piece of cinema, the kind of thing you want to see in a an alleged children’s film. In an age when consumerism is marketed even to the youngest in our society, and many blockbusters aimed at children are pure tripe and cash-grabs, “Paddington 2” is a refreshing change of pace. Paddington is never that wisecracking, smart-aleck protagonist we’ve seen so many times, but rather exemplifies humility and kindness in a quieter way. “Paddington 2” is ultimately a reminder of the goodness that exists in this world. The movie wears its heart on its sleeve and never sacrifices its ideals.
Paddington’s motto, a piece of life advice given to him by his aunt Lucy, is “If we’re kind and polite, the world will be right.” Paddington Bear doesn’t just say these words, he lives them. In every sphere of his life, he treats people with grace and politeness. This is demonstrated early on in a delightful scene showing what a day in the life is like for Paddington. The small marmalade-loving bear weaves his days with little acts of kindness, like reminding a neighbor not to forget his keys or helping the garbage man study for exams. It’s a sequence that gets at the heart of “Paddington 2,” and it’s such a whimsical life that “kind and polite” seems easy enough to follow.
However, due to a wrong-place/wrong-time situation, Paddington’s circumstances change for the worse, and he finds himself in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Although Paddington is adequately disheartened, he is not crushed to despair. Instead of wallowing in self-pity or anger at the injustice, he sets out to make the best of his new life by making new friends. Hijinks ensue.
One of the things “Paddington 2” does well is teach its morals in a anecdotal way, never coming off as preachy. Rather than being told what to do or how to act, characters’ ideals, and more important, their actions, shine through as being noble and worthy of replicating.
While aware of its target base of viewers, “Paddington 2” isn’t condescending towards its young audience, in effect growing the potential viewership so that the film is enjoyable even to the average college student. Truly a “family movie,” Paddington is one that all permutations of family can enjoy, from youngest of tots to the most elderly of grandfathers. It’s affecting in the sincerest way, and every emotional beat is well earned. The ending had much of the audience misty-eyed, myself included, and I came out of the theater reminded of how important it is to be grateful for the small things.
The aesthetics of “Paddington 2” are superb, and watching it is reminiscent to diving into your favorite childhood book. Though the prison sequences are clearly inspired by Wes Anderson’s “Grand Budapest Hotel” (right down to the pink prison jumpsuits), it replaces Anderson’s quirk with charm enough to feel, if not quite original, enjoyable nonetheless.
The production quality of the film is excellent. You never for a second doubt Paddington’s bear-ness. The performances are wonderful, especially Sally Hawkins as Paddington’s warm and adventurous adoptive mother Mrs. Brown, and Brendan Gleason as the prison-hardened chef Knuckles McGinty.
“Paddington 2” is a celebration of immigrants and found family, and in a time where immigration is a hotly contested debate, it’s a breath of fresh air. I truly believe that if everyone saw “Paddington 2” the world would be a kinder, more polite place, and that would be right.