It is clearly coincidental, but perhaps providential, that Paddington 2 is released whilst the media is driving the #MeToo meme. Every day we read new salacious stories revealing people’s hidden depths of wickedness, with an implicit expectation that we should now vilify and exclude them. Then, along comes Paddington 2, with its heart-warming story of a little bear who looks for the hidden depths of goodness in vilified and excluded people, with the explicit expectation that they should be recognised as part of the society which we all share.
The film’s storyline is simple, but beautifully developed. Paddington (wonderfully voiced by Ben Whishaw) is working hard as an accident-prone window cleaner to earn enough money to buy a pop-up book from an antiques shop to give to his aunt for her birthday. However, the book contains a secret message about the location of hidden treasure, and the villainous Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant) steals it away. Wrongly convicted of Buchanan’s crime, Paddington is sent to prison, where he faces the violent Knuckles McGinty (Brendan Gleeson).
Many children’s films operate at two levels: obvious visual slapstick for young viewers, and subtle verbal humour for adults. Paddington 2 has a much more connected integrity, with an underlying message for young and old. As much as many of us have been hurt, in different ways, by the wicked behaviour of other people, there is good in everyone. And, as much as evil within people’s hearts must be recognised and repented, if civilised society is to survive, the goal must be restitution and restoration.
Many films utilise a redemptive story-arc for key characters. Paddington 2 applies this to everyone. And, thereby, has an important message for us all.
Nick Pollard is co-founder of EthosEducation.org and EthosMedia.org which provide free downloadable resources to help school pupils and the general public to explore spiritual, moral, social and cultural issues through the latest films.