The discourse around the idea of a "perfect film" is rife with your Citizen Kane's, Godfather's, and other complex explorations of the grit and darkness in humanity...and then there's Paddington 2. In 2017, this unlikely addition to the "perfect film" discourse arrived on the scene. Paddington 2 follows its titular bear in a red bucket hat as he pursues the perfect gift for his aunt, while also dismantling the prison industrial complex and spreading kindness in his wake.

Paddington 2's bid for the "perfect film" title was jump started by its incredible reception, as it topped Rotten Tomatoes' notoriously fickle rating system to become its best-reviewed film. It has since lost its 100% rating, but that is an indicator of the passage of time more than a decrease in quality. Half a decade since its release, the film continues to shine as an incomparable and heartwarming bastion of filmmaking brilliance. Paddington 2 is meticulously crafted and overflowing with youthful charm, creating one of the best viewing experiences for any audience. It is film's beacon of kindness, inspiring positive action and the benefits of some good manners.

'Paddington 2' Is Masterfully Crafted

Paddington riding a train in Paddington 2
Image via StudioCanal

For the skeptics, it's important to establish that Paddington 2 is an impeccably crafted film by every legitimate definition. The movie approaches filmmaking with respect and devotion to the craft, seen in its remarkable visuals, acting, and writing. The CGI was done by Framestore, a London-based visual effect company with a portfolio that includes The Dark Knight, Gravity, and Blade Runner 2049 (the latter of which earned them an Oscar). The expertise is apparent in how amazing Paddington looks; he is cute, dynamic, and as expressive as the finest actor. He radiates friendliness, carrying himself with a warmth that is magnetic.

Paddington's range goes beyond just positive emotions too. When he gives a hard stare at someone for being impolite, the guilt-tripping is effective even off the screen. Ben Wishaw does an incredible job of portraying the character, conveying youthful wonder without sacrificing precise manners. Paddington may be a young, animated bear, but he effectively holds the spotlight even amidst the star-studded live-action cast. The ensemble around the centerpiece is overflowing with talent that includes actors such as Sally Hawkins, Hugh Grant, and Brendan Gleeson who all excel, no matter how unconventional their characters may be. The other characters in the film are silly, but that's the point. Grant plays a narcissistic Thespian and Gleeson plays a rowdy prison chef. Yet if you engage with them beyond the camp and goofiness of their attire, they are well-defined and consistently written characters that add to the film's heart.

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This film is also a masterclass in cinematic lighting and dynamic color use. The famous prison sequence is one of the best examples of visual storytelling in media. Yes, Paddington goes to jail and yes, it works for the movie. The first act of the movie is colored with warm tones and soft lighting. But once Paddington is wrongfully arrested, the yellows and oranges of his home are quickly replaced with the dull grays of a jail cell and prison garb. The lighting is dreary, a storm rages on, and it hardly looks like the same movie. Then, slowly but steadily, the colors and light come back. A red sock leads to pink prison stripes, a demand for marmalade leads to an abundance of orange, and the beginnings of friendship lead to some trendy impeccable design. The brightening of the world accompanies the narrative perfectly, as Paddington's positivity leaks out of him into the inhospitable environment. The visual shifts are dramatic and extreme, following Paddington into unforeseen depths before he pulls himself and those around him back out into the light.

Paddington Is a Kind Bear in an Unkind World

Paddington Bear shows his Aunt Lucy around London
Image via StudioCanal

Enthralling visual design and enjoyable acting aside, the film would not be worth anything without its hero and his message. As mentioned above, Paddington is visually stunning and is voiced with warmth and impeccable manners, but the depth of his character is more magnetic than any other animated character. He is the living embodiment of kindness, remaining consistent in that pursuit despite the hardships before him. One of the first scenes in the movie follows Paddington on his daily commute where his positive impact on his community is blatantly obvious. From the garbage collector to the newsstand clerk, Paddington is shown to improve the lives of those around him with simple but consistent actions. He quizzes them on their study notes, reminds them of their keys, or even just says some cheerful words. None of the acts of kindness he performs are unbelievably exaggerated, keeping the film grounded in its interpersonal relationships to inspire viewers of their own capacity to be kind.

Paddington shares the ethos of the story and the foundation of his beliefs with a quote from Aunt Lucy: "If we're kind and polite, the world will be right." It's a life lesson pulled straight out of a storybook, but the words are brought to life with grounded seriousness that makes the message palatable for even the stingiest cynic. Paddington himself is, in many ways, unremarkable. He's not particularly talented or intelligent, but he perpetually tries to do the right thing to help those around him.

The kindness of Paddington is made more remarkable because of the unkindness present in the world. Throughout the film a plethora of characters bully, manipulate, and even lie to Paddington but never once does he waver in his inner conviction. He even gets arrested and convicted! Yet through it all, Paddington continues to be kind. Whenever he gets angry, it's a righteous fury for someone else's sake. Whenever he is sad, he harbors no ill will and only seeks to improve the situation from its dreariness. Though the world is made accessible for young audiences, it does not pretend that it is perfectly clean. The prison storyline is overflowing with understated but thought-provoking critiques on the system itself, illustrating how prisoners are dehumanized and treated disrespectfully. They are menacing and gruff, intentionally designed to elicit feelings of distaste. It's a reflection of an unkind reality that exists off-screen. It is a setting that feels foreign to a film like Paddington, but it ends up working magnificently because of Paddington himself.

Our favorite bear remains true to Aunt Lucy's words, staying kind and polite even as the world around him feels so wrong. Where a grittier film might entertain the idea of the darkness winning, it's an unacceptable outcome in a world with someone like Paddington. He treats his fellow prisoners like actual people, helping them to create an environment focused on reform rather than punishment. The prison transforms from that dreary, dreadful place into one that is colorful and welcoming. The effects of Paddington's kindness even affects the antagonist of the feature. Grant's character is sent to that same prison but is greeted with cordiality rather than a sneer, a lasting consequence of Paddington's good deeds. Paddington doesn't save the entire world from injustice, but he saves his world and his community. The scale and depth of his kindness don't exactly stretch across the globe like Aunt Lucy's quote seems to suggest, but the impact is unmistakable.

'Paddington 2' Shows Small Actions Can Have Big Impacts

Image via StudioCanal

Paddington's story is not about the impact of one person on the entire world. But it is a story of how one person's actions can cascade beyond themselves. Decency creates more decency as Paddington's helpfulness spreads like snow over a town. Someone he's kind to then turns around and is more cordial to the next. And to the next, and to the next. Aunt Lucy's words weren't directed at a superman, but to a small bear. Paddington shares that lesson with his family, his neighborhood, and to his viewers. No matter the size of his good deed, it plants a seed of hospitality that gets endlessly paid forward. Paired with the incredible filmmaking and captivating storytelling, Paddington's story arc is the pinnacle of inspiration. If each person remained kind and polite, they could be the Paddington for their community to keep their world right.

Great films help viewers see different aspects of the world through their compelling narratives. This little bear in a coat helps prove that positivity and kindness should be explored with just as much intention as any other aspect of humanity. His story is fun and comedic, but it's also grounded in humanity and personal connections. Paddington's actions, words, and characterization all highlight the best that people have to offer; his good works are small in scale, but large in impact. In the discussions of greatest films, Paddington 2 has politely asked for a seat at the table. He may fumble over silverware and spill ad drink or two, but it's certain that Paddington's consistent kindness will further establish him as a hallmark of hope in an unkind world.