With a 100 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, “Paddington 2” deserves all the stellar reviews it has gotten. Marketed as a kids movie, this film about the adventures of a two-foot-tall teddy bear will resonate with viewers of all ages. While we face a constant barrage of bad news and ugly scandals plaguing the entertainment industry, this adorably sweet movie brings much needed light and hope.
“Paddington 2” is the second installment of the film adaptation of the endearing Paddington Bear, originally written by children’s book author Michael Bond. Paddington hails from Peru, and in the first movie, he is adopted by the Brown family in London. In this version, Paddington finds himself in prison after trying to buy a pop-up book of London for his Aunt Lucy’s 100th birthday. When someone steals the book, a righteous Paddington chases the perpetrator only to be framed and tossed in jail.
Paddington has a charm and exuberance that he brings to both the cast of characters in the movie and to the audience. His innocent enthusiasm is a constant source of humor and warmth.
In one scene, for example, Paddington asks the prison chef Nuckles McGinty about improving the menu. He begins by listing his complaints and suggestions, using a variety of props to illustrate, from the rock-hard baguette he bangs on McGinty’s head to the ketchup he accidentally squirts all over his apron. Paddington is characteristically unaware of how much worse he has made the situation. At one point in the scene, when he attempts to fix the ketchup debacle, he says, “Hmm, that’s just rubbing it in,” upon realizing his attempt to clean the stain was just spreading the ketchup everywhere. Next, in trying to make things better, Paddington smears mustard on McGinty’s large, rotund belly upon remembering that mustard works on getting rid of ketchup. When he realizes his miscalculations, he turns around to the rest of the cafeteria to ask, “Does anyone know what works on ketchup?”
The cast of “Paddington 2” brings talent, humor and spirit to their roles. Voiced by Ben Whishaw, Paddington as a CGI teddy bear embodies human sensibilities and emotional depth. Hugh Grant is superb as Phoenix Buchanan, the movie’s resident antagonist. He balances exaggerated mannerism with enough realism to produce a comedic absurdity that is central to his character. Sally Hawkins and Hugh Bonneville play the parts of the concerned parents of Paddington. They show us what unconditional love and dedication looks like, even when it comes to a talking bear.
Acting aside, the colors and composition of the film add so much charm to an already charming story. In the prison cafeteria, every inmate is donned in pink and grey striped uniforms with matching pink hats. The gentle pastels are sharply juxtaposed with the hardened criminals wearing them. In another scene where Paddington and the Browns visit a local fair, the bright colors of balloons and games populate the screen. The golden glow of the fairground lights and boisterous crowds stir a nostalgic sense of wonder.
One of my favorite scenes of the entire film involves Paddington teaching McGinty how to make marmalade. Set against a backdrop of whimsical music, the entire scene has a musical quality. Each step of the process melts into the next, the camera spinning around Paddington and McGinty from shot to shot, the rhythm of the motions resembling that of a dance.
This movie captures a very human story with a simple message. Paddington Bear has incredible empathy for his neighbors, even those who don’t treat him well. What amazes me about this brown bear is how he never seems to stop trying. He never stops trying to clear his name after being framed, and when it comes to people, he never stops trying to see the good in them.
“Paddington 2” is a brilliant film because it reminds us what is still good and real in the world. In the midst of #MeToo, government shutdowns and this year’s vicious flu strain, we can escape for a while to Paddington’s reality, where marmalade sandwiches reign and pop-up books fascinate. In the age of social media, it is much easier to be rude to others without consequence or shame. But Paddington sets an example for children and adults alike that politeness still matters. He proves to us that love and kindness can still do wonders.
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