I don’t believe in perfection as a concept. In my mind, you can get close to perfect, but there are bound to be flaws in it. Even the smallest of flaws is enough to make something imperfect, but imperfection is good. In my mind, something being imperfect just means there’s room for improvement and keeps you at the top of your game. Perfection brings complacency and complacency brings stagnation.
Yet there are some movies that come along that I think are able to achieve that. I can watch all of the Marvel movies on Earth, but they won’t be as viscerally entertaining as an action movie like Mad Max: Fury Road. I would even argue that Everything Everywhere All At Once broaches perfection with its weird-ass, avant-garde depiction of a broken family across the multiverse. Those movies are rare though. They don’t happen every day and people will usually sing their praises to the moon and back.
So why is it that nobody told me that Paddington 2 was also a perfect movie??? Seriously, why did people decide to just keep this wholesome family movie a secret from me and not let me know that it would turn my heart to marmalade and make me openly cry like a child?
I’ve never read or seen the Paddington series growing up. I was always aware of it, a series about a polite little bear living in London and having wacky misadventures, but I never actually sat down to experience it. There was the fairly well-received live-action movie that came out in 2014, but I was knee-deep in college shenanigans and never gave it any mind. Even when Paddington 2 came out in 2018, I didn’t really acknowledge it since I never saw the first movie. After hearing Pedro Pascal declare it as one of his favorite movies and seeing Nic Cage openly weep while watching it, however, I had to take the plunge and see what made it so special.
The film stars Paddington, played by Ben Whishaw, trying to get enough money to buy his Aunt Lucy a picture book of London. However, that book gets stolen by Hugh Grant, playing the most obnoxious THESPIAN ever, and frames Paddington for the crime, sending him to prison while running around London using the book to find a hidden treasure. So it’s up to Paddington and his adoptive family to clear his name, break him out of jail, and still have enough time to get Aunt Lucy her birthday present.
Paddington 2 just oozes charm every second it gets. While the movie recycles a lot of the jokes from the first movie, like Paddington giving someone a long stare and him getting into mischief with modern-day appliances, they feel more refined here into perfect slapstick scenarios. Paddington gets put into a situation and the jokes write themselves. Paddington is in jail and tries to be polite to everyone. Paddington is at a barbershop and has to cut someone’s hair. Paddington is a window washer. They’re all simple set-ups but executed in a way that will always leave a smile on your face.
I couldn’t stop smiling throughout. The jokes are perfectly wholesome and are good enough for kids and adults to enjoy. Family movies tend to suffer from catering to one audience more than the other, ignoring that these movies are meant to be enjoyed by everyone, both young and old. There’s a timelessness to the jokes here. It doesn’t matter if you’re a kid, adult, or a kid coming back to this movie after several years, there’s always going to be something funny about watching Paddington put a red sock in the prison laundry and turn all of the inmate’s clothes pink like it’s a Wes Anderson movie.
There’s also just a level of comfort the entire cast has. All of the original actors have returned from the first film, so instead of spending a half-hour just establishing the setting and personalities within, everyone already knows their role. The father is still a worrywart and the mother is still seeking adventure in her mundane life. The only legitimate change that actually benefits the movie is that the kids are now immediately accepting of Paddington and aren’t embarrassed by him.
The returning cast doesn’t mean the newcomers aren’t pulling their weight. I’d argue that you should see the movie entirely for Hugh Grant’s performance (which he believes is his best performance ever). He’s just in love with being this over-the-top ham and he’s having a blast doing it. Between him constantly throwing on disguises or making genuinely funny comments, he’s leagues above the previous film’s villain, Nicole Kidman. Brenden Gleeson’s time as Knuckles, the surly chef, is also great just for how quickly he falls in love with Paddington’s marmalade and defends him at a drop of a hat.
The more I sat and watched Paddington 2 the clearer it became to me why it was so beloved. It’s not some cheap joke where people will say it’s good for a kid’s movie, or how people will vehemently say Shrek is a great movie ironically. It wears its heart on its sleeve and shows the power of community and how one person’s actions, no matter how big or small, can have a positive impact. It captures how doing good deeds will eventually lead to goodness coming your way, perfectly embodied by its ending.
Now, I am not a man who cries easily. If I was to cry, it would usually be a single tear rolling down the side of my face. Cliched? Probably, but it’s the truth. If I am to cry, it would be a momentary, cathartic release. I was bawling at the ending of Paddington 2. I can’t remember the last time I cried like that and I have no shame about it. It felt good to be so moved by a movie to emote that like. The film’s humanity touched me in a way that no other film has. Even my favorite film ever, Pink Floyd’s: The Wall, doesn’t fill me with as much empathy and pathos as Paddington 2’s ending did.
I know that has to sound like a joke! Trust me, if you were to tell me a week ago that I would be writing this, I would scoff at you and say that can’t possibly be the case. But here I am a changed, and moved, man. When I hear about the media storm that took place in 2021 when Paddington 2 overcame Citizen Kane as the top-rated movie on Rotten Tomatoes, all I can say is good. Yeah, Citizen Kane is great and all, but it didn’t make me want to tell everyone to watch it immediately. And no, I don’t care that it lost that title a month later because someone gave it a negative review. In my mind, it’s still better than Citizen Kane.
I stand before you all a changed man. At first, I never would have said that Paddington 2 was a masterpiece. I would have thought that if I ever said it, it would be a joke. But there is no joke here. If you value my opinion, which would be weird if you didn’t since you’re reading this article in the first place, then make it a point to see Paddington 2. Stream it, buy a physical copy, watch it by yourself, with a friend, I don’t care how you do it, just go ahead and watch it. It’s perfect, plain and simple. The perfect family movie.