Have you been to the movies lately? Yeah. Neither had I, until this past Saturday. For a matinee it was still a small fortune with eight of us. If it hadn’t been for the generosity of a sweet sister of mine, we wouldn’t have gone. Movie going just isn’t something we do often so when we do go, I have high expectations, and most of the time (you know, all two times in the last four years that I’ve paid to see a movie in a theater), I am disappointed. I’m saying all of this so you understand, Dear Reader, why I want to tell you about the movie we saw, and why I highly recommend you go see it too.
This weekend, we saw Paddington. Our group included ages 2 through 13 (as well as 34 year old me) and every single one of us thoroughly enjoyed it. It was funny. It was sweet. It was heartwarming and silly and every good thing you could imagine a family movie to be. And to top it all off, it had a thoroughly Christian message of welcoming strangers and orphans. I’ll explain.
Marmalade and Darkest Peru
If you’ve read the Paddington books, by Michael Bond, then you already know that Paddington is a bear who travels to England from “Deepest, Darkest Peru.” He arrives at the Paddington railway station in London, with nothing but his special suitcase (which had been full of marmalade at the start of his trip), his signature red hat, and a tag hanging around his neck, much like those worn by children during the evacuation of London during World War II. On the tag is written a simple message: “Please look after this bear. Thank you.” The Brown family takes him in and many wonderful adventures follow over the course of 14 novels and many other books. The movie basically takes bits and pieces from many of the best loved books and weaves a new story of danger, excitement, love, and marmalade sandwiches.
How is this a Christian story?
Anyone who knows the Gospel knows that Jesus places a significant amount of importance on sharing with us how we should treat those who are most vulnerable. He tells us the parable of the Good Samaritan to illustrate not only how we are all neighbors, but also how we are all responsible for caring for the weak and infirm among us. In the Old Testament too are exhortations to care for the stranger. Leviticus and Deuteronomy both contain verses reminding us to not treat strangers badly and to welcome them into our families. The Blessed Mother herself welcomed Christ into her womb, and because of her welcome we have been saved. Her gracious hospitality should remind us all to welcome strangers as though we were welcoming Christ, to care for the weak and those who are alone. Christianity is a religion of saying yes to God and welcoming Him and His creation into our hearts and our homes.
In Paddington, standing on the platform, waiting for someone to read his tag and take him home, we have a truly pathetic creature. He is worthy of our sympathy, not because he’s a cute furry bear (which is absolutely is), but because he is truly alone in the world. He has no one to protect him and no one with whom to share his sorrow about it. Until the Brown’s. At first, it is only the mother who is willing to welcome him, and Mr. Brown (Hugh Bonneville) is reluctant to say the least, but by the end of the movie, Paddington is no longer a stranger, but one of the family. They’ve welcomed him, and they are repaid by the joy he adds to their lives. They do a good deed for no reason other than that it’s the right thing to do, and they end up reaping the benefits of their service: love.
Another Christian aspect of the movie comes in the character of Montgomery Clyde, the British Explorer (expertly played by Tim Downie). He gives up his name and position to protect Paddington’s [anthropomorphised bear] family, realizing that some things are more important than fame and fortune, like basic respect for [more or less human] life.
As an aside, not only the heart of this movie a Christian message, but it is also blissfully devoid of anything untoward other than a mumbled “bloody” and Nicole Kidman’s odd outfits. The family is comprised of a mother and a father, who are married to each other, and two children. There’s no nudity, no sex, no cursing; not a single moment where I had to figure out how my two hands could cover 16 eyes in a panic when an unnecessary wardrobe malfunction made an appearance. For those with a sensitive stomach, such as my own and my son’s, there is one scene that’s a little “gross” but that’s it. I count that alone as a win today. The fact that the movie was hilarious is a bonus.
Go see it already.
So this weekend or oxt weekend (not a typo), make a plan to see Paddington. Support a movie that highlights a traditional family, that spreads a Christian message of caring for the vulnerable among us, and that is, I’ll say it, downright clean. And perhaps you’ll also hear an audible gasp from the ALL THE KIDS in the theater during the climactic escape scene.
You can read more like this (and better) from the rest of the awesome writers over at Truth and Charity.