Has Anyone Else Noticed that Paddington and Elf are Almost the Same Movie?
Recently, I rewatched “Paddington” for maybe the fifth time because it was being pulled from Netflix and frankly, it’s always a good time to rewatch Paddington, a movie that emphasizes my most sacred values: found family, togetherness, and the importance of sugar-based foods. Perhaps, because it is the holiday season, I was watching it with a fresh mindset, because it only then occurred to me: the plot of “Paddington” was exceedingly familiar. This is because “Paddington” is nearly identical to an existing holiday favorite: “Elf.” Both Buddy the elf and Paddington the bear follow remarkably similar paths on their heroes’ journeys and honestly, I would argue they’re basically the same movie. Don’t believe me? I lay before you the irrefutable evidence:
1. Both Paddington and Buddy are orphans and both are adopted. Neither of them know much about their biological parents, but feel a deep emotional attachment to their adopted families. Perhaps this is flimsy evidence to begin with, but I can go on.
2. Both Paddington and Buddy, through no fault of their own, are forced to leave their childhood homes and venture out into the larger world without the help of their friends or guardians.
3. Both Paddington and Buddy are given outdated and rather unhelpful advice on how to get by in their respective cities that frankly does not do them any good. Paddington is advised by his Aunt Lucy, who learned everything she knows of London from an explorer who visited the bears decades ago, whereas Buddy is advised by Santa. Paddington finds that when he gets to London, none of the rain-based conversation topics he prepared are helpful to him, and when Buddy gets to New York, he runs into trouble because no one told him not to hug raccoons or buy his biological father Christmas-themed lingerie.
4. Both demonstrate eating habits that are peculiar to the humans they interact with and are sugar-centric. Where Paddington subsists largely on marmalade sandwiches, Buddy gets by on candy, candy canes, candy corns, and syrup. Neither are ever shown willingly eating the food that the people around them eat.
5. Both Paddington and Buddy are taken in by families in the city, but are initially disliked by the children of the house. Both, however, win over the children through an act of justice-serving that improves the children’s social prospects at school. While Buddy fends off school bullies through some white-hot (white-cold?) snowball action, Paddington brands himself a local hero by chasing down a pickpocket right in front of Judy’s school, cheered on by her admiring classmates.
6. Both are mystified by human bathrooms. Buddy cannot believe that the toilets are so big (which is to say, human-sized instead of elf-sized) and Paddington, well, Paddington is unclear on what bathrooms are even for.
7. Both movies devote an entire scene to showing their protagonists’ inability to use an escalator. Escalators are intimidating! Especially if you are a small bear or a large adult man in yellow tights.
8. While the women of the households love their newly adopted wards, the patriarchs of both families express a mild frustration toward Buddy and Paddington, and neither of the fathers really trust or believe Paddington or Buddy’s own accounts of their lived experience. It is not until the final moment, when they are presented with unimpeachable proof that Paddington and Buddy were indeed telling the truth, that the patriarchs are able to open their hearts and express the love they always felt for Buddy and Paddington. Which reminds me that…
9. Both fathers had an edgy past which is astonishing to the people who know them now. Mr. Brown (Paddington’s adopted father) was a biker dude, while Walter Hobbs (Buddy’s father) used to be a hippy. Both left behind their raucous pasts to take boring white collar jobs and wear suits.
10. Both movies feature a scene in which the family finds a letter where Buddy or Paddington apologizes for all the trouble he’s caused and explains that he’s left so as not to burden his adopted family anymore. Paddington apologizes for the incident at the Geographers’ Guild (in which Mr. Brown had to go in disguise as a cleaning lady and withstand harsh questioning and safety-pin-poking by a security guard), and Buddy apologizes for cramming cookies into the VCR.
I’m not sure what, exactly any of this proves, except that both movies are perfect gems of purity and wholesomeness and we should all be welcoming any Christmas elves/lost bears we run across into our hearts and homes, because sometimes they just need some gentle encouragement and a little help with the escalator.