Upon coming across the news last night that a third installment of the “Paddington” film franchise was on the horizon, I lazily scrolled past, uninterested and thinking, "Not my thing." But I can’t say the same for, I don’t know, everyone within my online community. Tweets upon tweets surfaced of people, full-grown adults, mind you, absolutely thrilled with the news.
The excitement was akin to that of Marvel or “Star Wars” fans hearing about new programming. What kind of power does this fictional bear possess?
2014’s “Paddington” follows the titular bear, who hails from the jungles of Peru but ends up in urban London, based on the Paddington Bear character featured in children’s books written by British author Michael Bond. Paddington is adopted by the Brown family, but is pursued by a taxidermist (Nicole Kidman, really???) who wants him all to herself.
“Paddington 2,” released in 2017, followed a similar plot, with the addition of Hugh Grant, bless his soul, as the film’s villain...if you can call him that. This time, Paddington is arrested for theft, and the Browns have to find the real culprit and clear his name.
The third installment, as announced by Variety yesterday, will again see StudioCanal partnering with Heyday Films, though Paul King, who directed the first two films and is currently working on Warner Bros.’ “Wonka,” will be stepping into a new role, leaving the director’s chair open for “Paddington 3.”
“Paddington” is sitting pretty at a 97 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with its sequel at literally 100 percent. What is it about this bear?! Is it the action? Is it the (likely) heart-warming happy endings? Or is it that “Paddington” is really just “Ted” with a PG rating?
I guess it’s...all of the above.
The “Paddington” franchise does what lots of other films and series try to do: find that happy medium of kid-friendly films that adults can enjoy without wanting to rip their hair out. “Paddington” is no Peppa Pig, you know? He’s intelligent, witty and gets himself into some ridiculous situations, so he’ll entertain the heck out of us and our kids. And, though the kids don’t care, the big-name talent (Julie Walters, Sally Hawkins, Mr. Crawley himself Hugh Bonneville) thrown in for adult fan service gets us interested enough to watch the film in the first place.
As a result, we’re not turned off by the oft-sickening moral gimmicks and cliches of children’s stories; in fact, we’re open to them. “Paddington” surrounds its ever-polite, picture-perfect central character with dry humor and a contemporary landscape, so the actual mushy content isn’t shoved down your throat in an off-putting way. It’s the same charming, empathetic warmth that made Apple TV+’s “Ted Lasso” such an overnight success. An odd comparison, yes, but watch the show and try telling me I’m not spot on. We can’t deny when a film or show has a big heart.
Also, it’s very British. We love British sh*t.
So, from what I can tell, what makes “Paddington” films so exceptional is that to the kids, they’re fun tales of mishaps and “bad guys” that end happily no matter what. For the grown-ups, they’re a 90-minute reminder that choosing love and doing your best isn’t as trite as we think it is.