Paddington 2 (2017)
I have clearly stated my thoughts on "PG" and live action. Heck, Paddington is even an animated bear and they gave him the ol' PG. Apparently, live action films will destroy children. I use my son as a litmus test for what is scary because that kid is terrified by everything. He got really scared...at the haircut scene. That's it. He cuddled with me in the theater and he got over everything else. I guess I am an example of "Parental Guidance". I TAKE IT ALL BACK!
DIRECTOR: Paul King
I really wanted to take my wife out to knock out some of those (then) potential Oscar nominees. We couldn't get a sitter so we went to go see Paddington 2! That story is relatable to way too many parents and I'm desperately trying to get my page shared more on social media. Parents, if you also like wine or coffee, I can try to reference those more often as well. Regardless, if you are a deep-cut kind of reader who knows my thoughts on the first Paddington movie, you probably know that I didn't mind seeing Paddington 2. There are certain movies that my kids are steered away from and there are certain movies I don't mind them putting on. I like them, even if they only become background noise eventually. The top two kids movies in the house are The Lego Movie and Paddington. Not going to even try to bury the lead: I loved me some Paddington 2.
It got a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes! 100%! How is this not # 10 on the Academy Award Best Picture list? Okay, it was fun and I really enjoyed it, but it also wasn't THAT good. Is it weird that I'm already crapping on a kids movie that I really enjoyed? I just find it odd that it go 100%. Like, 100%? Now I'm not sure how to read Rotten Tomatoes. I was thinking about how critical response has been pretty skewed lately compared to audience opinion. It's like it's a culture war out there people. (And this is where my blog about a bear who wears a hat decided to get unnecessarily woke.) But the movie is a really good time. What's odd about the love for the movie is that it is has been a while since kids movies have gotten something so simply right that maybe there is a nostalgia for the kind of movie that Paddington 2 is. What Paddington 2 does right, which should be a no-brainer, is that it doesn't make an absolutely frenetic insane movie that kids are used to. Don't get me wrong, I laugh at ridiculous innuendo for the adults in kids movies. I know, I should be vehemently opposed, but I always appreciate when a studio realizes that adults usually have to watch these movies with their kids. Paddington 2 keeps the same philosophy about keeping adults entertained, but it does so with cleverness and aesthetic. There's absolutely nothing dirty in the movie, but the kids still laugh. At least I think they laugh. I laughed way louder than anyone in the theater and my wife was once again mortified by my behavior. I don't know why she married me. She's always embarrassed about me. But the humor is great in this movie and it is charming. Most of the jokes I laugh at with my kids' movies, but that's because I also like potty humor. I guess it is the difference between eating dessert and eating something of substance. I'm always going to like dessert, but I also feel kind of crummy afterwards. I would prefer to have an amazing meal that knocks my socks off. That's the humor in Paddington 2. I mean, some of the jokes I laughed at were simply okay, but I didn't even care. The tone of the movie got me in the feels, so that even dumb jokes really destroyed me.
Lord Grantham is in these movies. Hugh Bonneville is a national treasure. Not my nation, sure. But I'm sure that the Brits are mighty proud of him. I'm a little bummed that he didn't have the meaty role that the first movie provided him. I guess giving Mr. Brown a huge storyline again would be rehashing the same movie over again. Similarly, Sally Hawkins doesn't really get the same amount of attention that the first movie provided her. (Can I just say how uncomfortable it was seeing Sally Hawkins in Paddington 2 after watching...all of her...in The Shape of Water.) But while my favorite cast in the world is back, including a still grumpy Peter Capaldi, the major cast change was Hugh Grant. In my last review, I talked about the problems with Julianne Moore's character in Kingsman: The Golden Circle. Hugh Grant's character actually does what a sequel should do. The villain becomes the focus of the movie and it becomes way more compelling. Again, this is a silly villain. I'm not talking about a villain that is out to emotionally and spiritually destroy the protagonist, a bear who likes marmalade. But the second villain gets a lot more investment than the first movie gave to Nicole Kidman. The villain is entertaining in himself. I do feel awkward that Hugh Grant is playing a washed up actor. He still has a career, right? Like, I don't think he's gotten to the point played in movie, but I can't help but have that seed planted in my head. Is Hugh Grant falling off the map? Is he now my responsibility? Probably not, but he plays the part so convincingly. King frames the character in a way where he is clearly the bad guy, but that he is part of the entertainment of the film as well. Rather than a simple plot device, his character is pretty charming while thoroughly dislikable. But, like, in the best way? (Guys, I teach writing!)
But as much as I like Hugh Grant as an addition to this movie, Brendan Gleeson as Knuckles McGinty might be my favorite thing in the world. I feel like Brendan Gleeson has been crushing it in the TV cameo circuit lately, so it only makes sense that he's one of our fifteen British actors who show up in everything. But Knuckles McGinty (I'm avoiding spoiling a joke) might represent my favorite element of the movie, the juxtaposition of aesthetics. The jail sequence in the movie is insanely pretty. This is such a great choice for the movie and it is typified in Knuckles's transformation throughout the film. (Read my further essay on this subject entitled "The Metaphysical Knuckles: He Kant Make Marmalade Himself"). I know that the joke of having prisoners doing traditionally ironic things has been a staple of the kids' movie for a while, but I think Paddington 2 takes it to a new level. Every scene within the prison just doubles down on how adorable a movie can get. We've been watching quite a bit of British cooking shows and the look of the jail reminds me of a village fête. The color palette in all of Knuckles's scenes are so absolutely perfect that it reminds you that joyful things should make you feel better. I keep thinking of the details of many of the animated movies that I see with the kids. Rarely do they ever hit the level of full on charming. Rather, many of them go with "cool" or "cute", but I think it is really hard to pull off charming. Paddington 2 really crushes the charming element that I haven't seen in films. I think authentically charming things hit my belly laugh button harder than anything in a while. Reminder, I am a thirty-four year old man.
My wife pointed out that she was bored in the middle. I suppose that is a valid critique. While I loved every minute of it, I think it takes a bit of investment to really love the movie as a whole. I wanted to love it and I got what I put into it, but that's also because I have an unhealthy love of the first film. If I had to be a bit more judicious about the whole thing, I could see the middle being quite boring. But it's not that I necessarily love Paddington (although I do!), but just that the theme of these movies is a call to optimism. The opening sequence shows how this silly bear who gets in trouble a lot brings joy to an entire neighborhood. When Paddington is removed from that equation, the neighborhood becomes grumpy and is soured. The message of the individual's mission to bring joy to all around and how infectious that joy is so endearing. Ironically, because Paddington's goal is to spread joy to his neighbors, I, too, leave feeling joy. That's what I want out of a movie. I don't need some blockbuster fight scene at the end of my films. My son gets really scared from those. (Again, he got scared at the haircut scene.) I want him to leave feeling positive and like he can bring joy to those around him. Sure, he probably didn't pick up on that, but it can't hurt to saturate him with a sense of optimism.
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Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.