The first time I went to see something when there was nothing in theaters I particularly wanted to see, I saw the worst movie I think I’ve ever reviewed for this blog. The next time, I went with a movie I felt I had heard vaguely good things about, and it ended up being one of my favorite movies of the year. So this weekend, again faced with nothing I was dying to see, I once more hedged my bets. Divided between Proud Mary and Paddington 2 I waited for first few reviews to come out, and while I wanted to give my money to an action movie with a female african-american lead (because I’d like to see more movies like that) the reviews seemed pretty abysmal. So instead it was off to Paddington 2, even though I don’t have a particular desire to see more movies with bear based protagonists.
That being said, Paddington 2 does make a convincing case for more bear movies, or at least more Paddington movies. I haven’t seen the original Paddington, but I now plan to because Paddington 2 is truly delightful in every which way. Following (I assume) the events of the first Paddington our protagonist… Paddington… is happily living in London with the Brown family. If you don’t recognize the Browns, don’t worry, they each have a specific set of interests and skills quickly sketched in at the beginning of the flick (with great pay-off in the climax). Trouble starts for Paddington when he decides to buy his Aunt Lucy a pop-up book for her 100th birthday. While earning money for his big purchase Paddington spies a thief stealing the book late one night and while he gives chase the thief ultimately escapes, causing the police to believe Paddington is the guilty party! So it’s off to prison to meet a colorful cast of characters while the Brown family tries their best to clear Paddington’s name.
Paddington 2 doesn’t fall into nearly any of the traps that I fear with movies made for younger audiences. It’s message isn’t the simplistic and often used “learning to believe in yourself” or the equally simplistic and often used “realization that family is important”. Paddington is already unyieldingly earnest and sure of his motto “if we’re kind and polite the world will be right”. His faith and resolve are tested but never waver, and his adoptive family never tries to pull away. It is instead a movie that champions community, wherever it is found. Paddington is a valuable member of his family unit, of his neighborhood, and when he arrives in prison he makes himself invaluable there as well, endearing himself to “Nuckles” (an always welcome Brendan Gleeson). But Paddington’s assuredness wouldn’t be enough to pull him out of a tricky spot without the community he bolsters and so values, and in the end of the day every single member of each of his social units contributes to saving the day. There has been some writing about Paddington 2 being a post-Brexit film, and it’s felt in the multicultural make up of all of Paddington’s friends. Community, the film argues, is valuable but it only works properly if everyone is a) invested in it and b) able to bring their own special skills and values to the table.
Paddington 2 delivers this message in style. Director Paul King uses his camera wisely, and rarely resorts to simple shot reverse-shot. His cameras are dynamic and kinetic, the frame always filled with fun and action without ever feeling overly caffeinated. He’s happy to put the camera on the ceiling of a prison, to place it on the floor as a statue plummets towards it, and to have it glide down a pipe as people whisper through them. As a result the movie feels much more cinematic then most fare aimed at children, and, to be perfectly honest, a lot of movies in general. The color palette is also a lot of fun, looking like a relatively restrained Wes Anderson was responsible (all the better! Anderson feeling often too “in your face” for my personal taste). King is even brave enough to slide through different animation styles, taking Paddington on a romp through a imaginary CGI jungle as well as a “pop-up book” fantasy, and a flashback is at one point rendered in hand drawn black and white. With so many different elements it’s shocking that the movie never feels jarring, but it never does, only whimsical, footloose, and fancy free.
I watched this movie alone in a theater with parents and children, the sole 24 year old, but there’s no reason for that to be the case. I encourage everyone to go see this movie, all alone if you have to. It’s proper “fun”, and it felt good to get away from drama, foreign films, and action movies, to take a breather that was light but wasn’t just candy. Paddington 2 delivers, and I cannot wait to watch Paddington 1.
Paddington 2 gets 9 marmalade sandwiches out of 10 improvised air balloons.
- I can only assume that the first Paddington includes a scene where the Prime Minister or Queen or someone goes on TV and tells everyone about Paddington, because while Paddington is the sole talking marmalade loving bear in England no one ever seems particularly surprised to see him.
- There are no weak links in this cast, though Sally Hawkins plays Judy Brown with a particularly fun, mischievous flair matched only by the villainous actor Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant).