Paddington 2 ★★★


It's easy to oversell this movie, like it has the power to save the world or something. (You wouldn't believe the things I've read on Twitter on behalf of Paddington 2. It's all a bit bananas.) But that's because the values that P2 champions are so completely out of step with the shitshow of contemporary America, particularly the political sphere, and one hopes that a film like this might offer a refreshing antidote.

Paddington 2 has our marmalade-loving little teddy (voice of Ben Whishaw) going to the Big House. Yep, Paddington goes to prison. He's innocent, of course, set up by the film's foppish villain, a washed-up thespian played to the hilt by Hugh Grant. The key to the plot is, even in lockup, our humble bear manages to soften the hardest of felons through his decency and consideration. Everyone, it seems, just wants to be listened to and treated with basic respect.

In fact, there are more than a few parallels between P2 and Wes Anderson's Grand Budapest Hotel, in terms of Ralph Fiennes' Gustave character and his undying faith in the ways of the gentleman, even in the face of grave danger. Likewise, Paddington cannot help but be pleasant. It's in his DNA (which, of course, is the joke -- he's a freaking bear).

Is this film a model for modern life? Of course not. For one thing, there has to be a place for rage, if we're ever going to overturn our current regimes of incompetent power. Plus, this film really reflects the image that Britain likes to project of and to itself -- plucky, eccentric, and polite to a fault -- rather than any true reality.

Nevertheless, Paddington 2 does remind us that civilization is about helping each other along, not strutting around while you're winning and grinding others beneath your bootheel. And for just under two hours, that's certainly a paws that refreshes.