davidehrlich’s review published on Letterboxd:
“If you’re kind and polite, the world will be right.” — Paddington Brown
A recent spate of humane and optimistic movies —short on discord, long on warmth, and explicitly about the goodness in people — suggests that our ongoing political debacle may be prompting some filmmakers to reconsider the types of stories they want to tell. At a time when the free world is run by a malignant cancer who can’t even shake hands with someone without trying to assert some Nietzschean kind of dominance, perhaps it’s not surprising to see an uptick in movies that subvert the idea that we have to tear each other down to prop ourselves up, or the idea that success is a naturally a zero-sum game.
Liberated from the film school dictum that movies are fueled by the chemical reaction between conflict and resolution, this new wave of nicecore cinema argues that kindness can be a transformative force unto itself. Even if the Trump era is regrettably still in progress, its pop cultural legacy may already be taking shape on the global stage.
The evidence is everywhere, and it’s as sweet as a marmalade sandwich. Take “Paddington 2,” for example, a British movie that functions as a politely scathing rebuke to Brexit and the xenophobia that made it possible. Maybe the best film of 2018 so far — and definitely a future classic in the making — Paul King’s delightful sequel is pretty much the “Citizen Kane” of nicecore. Unlike “Citizen Kane,” however, it ends with Hugh Grant performing a musical number from Stephen Sondheim’s “Follies” (an oversight that Orson Welles must have regretted until his dying day).
Unlike its predecessor, a vibrant family comedy that was nevertheless bound by the strictures of the hero’s journey, “Paddington 2” is free to follow a different and more emotionally dependent path. The protagonist is still motivated by a clear desire — Paddington wants to reclaim the stolen pop-up book he hoped to buy for his Aunt Lucy’s birthday — but the action is driven by the virtue he reveals in those around him. As his adopted father Henry Brown puts it: “Paddington looks for the good in all of us, and somehow he finds it.”