‘Paddington’ Is The Cinematic Equivalent Of A Warm Hug (Movie Review)
Mr. Brown: Hello, I just need to add something to my home insurance policy. Well, what it is, we have a guest for the night, a bear, and I just need some extra coverage for…Yes, a bear.
I am not sure whether or not I should be surprised by how much I enjoyed Paddington, the film adaptation of the popular children’s literature character created by Michael Bond, but I know without a doubt that I was absolutely charmed by it. Co-writer/director Paul King, best known for his work on the British comedy series The Mighty Boosh, has put together a marvelous little film that has the kind of wonder that makes the film adaptations of certain Roald Dahl books, like Fantastic Mr. Fox, Matilda, and Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, work so well. He even throws in the plotting of a film like Beethoven to make for a very easily accessible family film, with just enough plot to make this fish-out-of-water story very easy to watch. So grab your coat & red hat and get ready for Paddington.
The story is simple enough. Paddington (voiced ever so charmingly by Ben Whishaw), is a rare species of bear who comes to London from his home in the jungles of darkest Peru. A family takes him in, with Mom and Dad played by Sally Hawkins and Hugh Bonneville. While Paddington adjusts to human life, a nefarious museum taxidermist (Nicole Kidman) learns of the rare bear’s presence in the city and hatches her own scheme to capture him. Really though, this is the story of a curious little bear learning about big city life, helping a family get along together, and bringing in his own eccentricities, such as his love for marmalade.
Some have commented in advance of seeing the movie how the look of the CG-created Paddington was creepy. I honestly do not see it, but regardless, watching the movie and more specifically, Paddington in action, I was really impressed with the visual effects work done to incorporate him into the world of humans. I felt for this bear and while it may not be some Weta master work in another Planet of the Apes film, it is more than sufficient for what is required here. It helps that Whishaw captures Paddington’s sense of innocence so well in the way he speaks and voices the little sounds that accompany the animated actions of his character when faced with some clumsiness or other forms of adventures, as he comes to understand his new surroundings.
Further helping this film is its approach to bringing Paddington into London. The fact that he is a talking bear makes no difference to anyone and I loved that. Here’s a quick detour: one of my favorite aspects of the film Ted was the way it jumped ahead in time, so everyone was already used to the idea of a living Teddy Bear and wouldn’t spend the whole film questioning the magic involved. Paddington is obviously a little different from Ted, but the same sort of logic applies, which is a great way for the film to get around some of the more familiar jokes and simply have fun with a wacky new character in the lives of a somewhat wacky family.
The cast is a lot of fun here. Hugh Bonneville is the straight man character, who is at odds with the idea of this bear coming to live with the family, but that allows for some great moments he can share with Paddington as the film carries on. Meanwhile, Sally Hawkins makes it clear that I could watch a whole movie about her reacting to things, as she seemed to express the same kind of joy and wonder in her various facial expressions as I had in watching this delightful feature. Veterans such as Julie Walters and Jim Broadbent pop up to have some fun too, along with Dr. Who himself, Peter Capaldi. And lastly, Nicole Kidman is plenty game to have fun in a role like this and the film understands just how much to utilize her character, while not making her too overbearing.
Adding to the charm of Paddington, the whole film has nice little details in the world the characters exist in. While not necessarily set in a specific time (seems like anywhere between the late 80s to now), the film does not focus on what modern or period elements could make for the best gags and instead takes some fairly classic comedy setups and a lot of Rube Goldberg-ian ideas to create a series of humorous mishaps for the characters to get involved in. You also have things like a calypso band constantly popping up to score scenes from the film and some running gags that play oh so well.
Paddington is a charming delight from start to finish. The work done to bring this bear to life is matched with an amusing script and a cast of characters that very much get the film they are in and act accordingly. The personality of this bear is captured lovingly and the mix of zany antics and the reserve of British humor makes for a film that is seemingly enjoyable for anyone looking to have a family-friendly good time, with a nice sense of wonder imbued within this film throughout. Enjoy this film and have yourself a marmalade sandwich to top it all off afterward.
Mr. Brown: It doesn’t matter that he’s a different species or that he has a worrying marmalade habit…families stick together!