January 29, 2018

Things That I Have to Watch with My Kids: “Paddington 2”

By Tim Hruszkewycz *

I always want to go to the movies. There was a time in my life when I would just go to the movie theater and buy a ticket for whatever was playing next. I loved this. There is something really special about going to the movies that I’m never going to get tired of.

As such, I really wanted to go to the movies last week. There are too many movies that I want to see. But I have two kids and another one on the way. Without a babysitter, that often means that I’m going to watch whatever kids’ movie is in the theater right now.  This time I lucked out. This time, I got to see “Paddington 2.”

If you haven’t seen the first “Paddington” movie, I feel sorry for your heart. It clearly isn’t functioning on the level it should. The first “Paddington” movie is one of only two movies that I get secretly jazzed to watch on family movie night. Sure, I hem and haw. I say things like, “We just watched that one.” But I not-so-secretly love Paddington. He is a genuinely charming bear.

When I heard that “Paddington 2” was coming out in theaters, I got really excited. When Warner Brothers and Studio Canal released the first trailer, I dropped what I was doing and messaged my wife in all caps. I choose not to replicate the text here, but I guarantee that it was all caps and maybe a few emojis. I never use emojis.

I tend not to hate kids’ movies, but many of them lack any sort of rewatchability. Many of the movies that my kids watch tend to be low brow and crass. Think of the “Teen Titans Go to the Movies” trailer: that’s what my kids like. It is frenetic and involves a lot of fart jokes. I tend to laugh at fart jokes, so I don’t mind watching a fart joke movie once in a while. But how much can one guy take? Sometimes, I just need a movie with a little substance. That’s what “Paddington 2” offered.  

I’m gushing about a movie that stars a bear in a hat eating marmalade sandwiches, but maybe that’s not such a bad thing. There’s something in the movie that inspires me to be a better person.

Paddington’s gift, besides being wildly adorable and British / Peruvian, is that he cares about everyone in his neighborhood. Paddington cares about friends and strangers alike. He places the needs of others before himself.  

The central plot of “Paddington 2’ involves a bear’s quest to buy a pop-up book. This is not because he wants that pop-up book for himself. He wants to buy it for his aunt. Paddington is never selfish. He is driven to bring love to the world around him. It is only when Paddington is gone that people notice how much joy the little bear has brought to the neighborhood.  

This seems like a pretty basic idea, but I want my kids to see it. My son has a hard time sharing, but he understood that giving someone a marmalade sandwich makes him or her happy. Paddington treats everyone alike, regardless of how they treat him.  
Mr. Curry, played by Twelfth Doctor Peter Capaldi, always dislikes having a bear in the neighborhood. I suppose the story needs a Grinch, and Peter Capaldi plays grumpy very well. But Paddington is never aggressive to Mr. Curry.

Paddington meets prisoners and asks them what they enjoy doing.  I would say that Paddington visits the imprisoned, like a work of mercy, but I don’t think it counts since he, too, is in prison. But he never sees himself above those people around him. He respects them for the small things they bring to their world.  I love this so much.

Yes, “Paddington 2” is remarkably funny. My wife was probably wildly embarrassed by my regular and boisterous guffaws in the theater. But I also laughed at how happy Paddington made me feel. Paddington made the people of Windsor Gardens smile and become the best versions of themselves. I left that movie theater wanting to be the best version of myself too. 

Kids’ movies are meant to keep my children entertained for two hours, or at least 89 minutes. But I want my kids to find genuine life lessons, and I know that the Paddington franchise offers them.  

I’ll continue to drag my feet publicly when my kids ask to watch these movies for the umpteenth time.  But the truth is, I love Paddington, and I’m glad my kids like him too.

Tim Hruszkewycz is a high school English and film teacher at Villa Madonna Academy in Villa Hills, KY. He also co-hosts the Literally Anything podcast at literallyanything.net and blogs about film

* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.