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Thursday, Feb. 1, 2018 12:04 am

Paddington 2: A balm for our troubled times

 

From where I sit, nothing much makes any sense in the world anymore. I understand that I am getting older and find myself committing the sin of doing and thinking all of those things that I said I would never do or think. I understand that I am not changing with the times and am becoming an anachronism with every second that goes by. As a result, I find myself turning to more simplistic, pleasant things in order to cope with the chaos that surrounds me. Case in point, I just finished Frances Hodgson Burnett’s Little Lord Fauntleroy, a children’s classic I happened to see laying about the library that slipped by me as a youngster. It’s simple, rather silly and antiquated, but its message of generosity and understanding is exactly what I needed to hear right now.

If you’re in need of something similar, I can’t recommend Paul King’s Paddington 2 enough. Don’t make the mistake of discounting this as a simple kid’s movie; you’ll be missing out on a genuinely imaginative, charming and inspiring film that delivers the sort of message the world needs right now. (If you need any more proof, it set the record as the most positively reviewed movie in the history of the Rotten Tomatoes website, wracking up 176 positive reviews against zero negative ones.)

Following up from the 2014 original, Paddington the bear (voice by Ben Whisaw) has settled in with his adopted family, the Browns, and has become a regular part of their London neighborhood. His Aunt Lucy is about to turn 100 years old, and he decides to get her a special present – an antique pop-up book that features elaborate renditions of London landmarks, places she’s wanted to see but has never been able to. Unbeknownst to our ursine hero, down-on-his luck actor Phoenix Buchanan (a wonderful Hugh Grant) has stolen the book, knowing that it contains clues to the hiding place of a secret treasure, and set Paddington up to take the fall.

If seeing a brilliantly animated bear accidently ruin a magistrate’s haircut by letting his clippers go awry or wash windows with his furry hindquarters is not your cup of tea, well, more’s the pity. To be sure, Paddington’s adventures are silly, especially when the poor guy ends up in prison and runs afoul of the cook, Knuckles McGinty (Brendan Gleeson), but they are rendered with such artistry and enthusiasm that it’s impossible not to be won over. The film helps cast a spell of good cheer as it is propelled by the bear that follows the golden rule, resulting in a tidal wave of optimism and offering up a ray of hope in our gloomy world.

I could probably count on one hand the number of movies that have made me smile from beginning to end and Paddington 2 and its predecessor would be two of them. That I shed a tear or three at the end of the film was due to its subtle, poignant conclusion as well as the fact that its message, revolving around how much happiness can be generated with a simple, kind turn, has become so rare in our day-to-day interactions.

Paddington 2 provides a much-needed respite from the insanity that fills our days. Seeing it won’t solve any of your problems, but it does offer a gentle, moving reminder of how a pleasant society operates, and that’s something.

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.

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