The Long View: Paddington 2

Hannah Long, News Editor •

We live in an age of cynicism. Star Wars deconstructs its own legacy. Superheroes have feet of clay and spent much of their time lined up before government tribunals questioning their actions. It’s hardly surprising, given the crisis of trust in authority figures which we now face, but at the same time, cynicism isn’t a healthy critique. It’s merely a loss of hope.

And into this world comes Paddington, the delightfully polite little bear to whom cynicism is beyond comprehension.

Ben Whishaw voices our eponymous hero with the same polite gentleness which distinguished the character in the first film. He’s joined by a terrific cast of British character actors. There’s Hugh Bonneville as the insecure Mr. Brown, and Sally Hawkins as his scatterbrained, artistic wife. Peter Capaldi takes time off from traveling the universe in a blue box to play the bigoted anti-diversity neighborhood watchman.

The best, however, is Hugh Grant, living the dream as the film’s thespian villain. He’s less cruel than Nicole Kidman’s evil taxidermist from the first movie. That’s good, as his brand of self-important mustache-twirling is much more in line with the film’s sense of humor.

Paddington is also remarkably intelligent and literate, borrowing the colorful style of Wes Anderson and Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Amelie) to create a storybook world and refusing to talk down to its audience. In one scene, Grant croons, “Oh, thank Larry, Johnny, and all the ghosts of the Avenue,” in a deep-cut reference to Laurence Olivier and his contemporaries.

The film’s pro-hospitality, pro-pluralism message continues here, just as relevant as it was in the first film, if not more so, and undergirded by Paddington’s unironic ethic of kindness.

“Paddington looks for the good in all of us,” exclaims Mr. Brown, and then, in one rare nod to the state of the world, he wearily says, “and somehow…he finds it.”

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