I've gotten used to going to a movie theater alone, but there is nothing like going to a theater alone to see a children's film. Nothing else piques one's self-conscious than being the only single adult male in a large group of people. What is everyone thinking about me? Why am I here? When the pre-movie announcements tells the crowd to report suspicious characters, does anyone suspect me? I make sure to bring a notepad with me so people realize I'm that kind of weirdo and not that other kind of weirdo.
But when seeing a film like Paddington 2, once the film starts, that self-consciousness fades away and everyone is just having a good time.
Paddington 2 is good. It is really good. It is filled with heart and charm and is really well made and is about how being nice to people is a good thing. More movies should be Paddington 2.
What it's about: Fresh off the exploits of 2014's Paddington [which I saw, but I have basically no memory of], the cute little personable bear is living on a quaint little London street, everyone's favorite neighbor. It is soon to be his Aunt Lucy's 100th birthday and he must get her the greatest present ever. Because she always wanted to go to London but never got the chance, Paddington is set on buying a wonderful pop-up book from Mr. Gruber's antique shop. The film's villain, washed up actor Phoenix Buchanan [Hugh Grant with plenty of self-reference], steals the pop-up book and frames Paddington for the terrible deed. And Paddington is sent to prison. Yes, you read that right. Paddington's adoptive family set out to prove the bear's innocence, find the real thief, and restore balance to the wonderful world.
Didn't see Paddington? You don't have to. Primer: it is a bear that lives in human society for some reason and he loves marmalade. That's basically all you need to know.
Did Wes Anderson secretly direct Paddington 2? Well, no, Paul King [of Paddington and cult British comedy The Mighty Boosh] did. But you could definitely be mistaken based on the style and art direction. This isn't a knock-off or some cheap sequel cash grab. There is some real filmmaking going on there. The highlight is a scene where Paddington breaks out of prison with a few of his new friends -- it is presented like a storybook, something out of Fantastic Mr. Fox or The Life Aquatic.
The Paddington special effect is exquisite. It is obviously in a different context and probably isn't as technically complicated as the Planet of the Apes movies or The Jungle Book, but it is just as effective. Ben Whishaw's pleasant voice performance helps build the reality of the character.
As for the human cast, they are exceptional. Sally Hawkins, fresh off the movie where she has sexual relations with a fish man, is wonderfully quirky as Paddington's adoptive mother. Brendan Gleeson plays Nuckle's McGinty, a tough-exteriored inmate with a heart of gold, probably the role for which he was born. The aforementioned Hugh Grant continues his resurgence as the hammy actor villain.
Despite the awkwardness of my introduction, one of my favorite things about seeing a kid's movie in the theater is seeing how much fun the kids have -- it is especially nice when they are having fun at an actually fun movie. The kid in the row directly in front of me was reacting so exuberantly to the silly jokes that they landed better with me, too. The kid's parents kept telling him to keep quiet and while I respect proper theater etiquette, the shushing was the only thing bothering me.
In terms of the Paddington Power Rankings [PPR], Paddington 2 ranks just below the promo photo meme that made Paddington look like a serial killer.