Paddington 2 looks like it should be a lot of fun, right?
There’s a cute little CGI bear, doing cute little CGI things, wandering around London with that guy from Downton Abbey and a version of Hugh Grant who looks like he should be friends with the Childcatcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
What’s not to love?
At the heart of this new trailer, though, comes some ideas that seem like this may be more than just a sweet children’s movie about a talking animal getting into mishaps. There’s some really biting political commentary hidden just under the surface, and the direction that this movie appears to be taking is quite subversive for something that’s ostensibly aimed at young audiences.
To explain this, let’s back up a bit, and take a look at the first Paddington movie.
Online critic Movie Bob sums this all up best, so it’s worth checking out his review in full, but the key thing to pay attention to is that Paddington the First is a lot more smart than it may appear.
The movie tells the story of an immigrant from a foreign country, whose home has been destroyed and who finds himself travelling as a refugee, as he arrives in London, the birthplace of modern colonialism.
This fresh immigrant has grown up hearing stories of the luxury and freedom of the Western world, and is under the impression that anyone can succeed here, because the multicultural society is welcoming to outsiders, and the opportunities are plentiful.
Upon arrival, though, Paddington the immigrant soon realizes that the big city has been misrepresented, as he is spurned, ignored, and treated with contempt. There’s no warm welcome, no kindness, and while he eventually finds a loving home (this is a kid’s movie after all), he only does so after enduring a lot of people who want to send him back home so that he doesn’t somehow ruin the neighborhood.
That’s some deep stuff for a children’s film, and it’s a basic grounding in the immigration debate that’s going to subconsciously influence a lot of young minds as they grow up and realize that Paddington’s struggle is felt by plenty of real life people in major wealthy cities around the world.
Then, as if this weren’t bleak enough, things get all the more depressing in the sequel.
The trailer for Paddington 2 shows the titular little bear attempting to more fully achieve the American – or, well, in this case, the British dream. He’s looking to become a self-made financial success, earning money to afford the lifestyle that he sees that others are capable of.
There aren’t a lot of opportunities available to an immigrant such as himself, though, and Paddington finds himself working demeaning, traditionally low-paid jobs in a desperate effort to get a secure flow of income through working as a window cleaner.
Then, Paddington gets mixed up in a robbery, where, purely because he looks like an outsider, the cops instantly assume that he’s to blame for a crime that he just happened to be present to witness.
All of this is played for comedy, but it’s hard to ignore the continuing immigrant narrative from the first movie – if a foreigner comes to a big, wealthy, powerful nation on promises of getting rich and living more comfortably, it’s inevitable that they’ll end up trapped in low-paying grunt work or end up behind bars thanks to a judicial system that’s inherently biased against outsiders.
Perhaps this sounds like too much of a stretch, and people are definitely allowed to take their own interpretation away from this trailer, as well as from the final movie as a whole when it hits theaters.
That said, it’s worth bearing in mind that this reading of the trailer definitely exists, and it’s likely that some audiences, particularly the young, will spot trends here that resonate with real world situations.
It’ll be interesting to see how this movie plays with these themes throughout the story, but in the meantime, it does look awfully like the Paddington series has a lot to say on the challenges of immigration.
This is all pretty heavy for a kid’s movie. At least there’s also a talking bear in the story to distract from the hard-hitting themes of inequality and prejudice.