In 1958, English author Michael Bond introduced the world to Paddington Bear, a kind-hearted young bear who speaks, wears a slightly oversized hat, has a taste for marmalade as well as a penchant for adventure. Paddington has appeared in numerous books, animated programs, toys, and for purposes for this review, a feature-length film. Paddington is a charming movie that showcases the beloved bear and tells his story in an intelligent, fun, and visually-striking way. It is a film for the whole family and the perfect way to start off 2015.
The film starts some years ago in darkest Peru, where explorer Montgomery Clyde discovers a family of speaking bears, one of which is Paddington, the youngest. Clyde offers the bears a place to stay in London if they ever fancy a journey. One day, a violent earthquake destroys the bears’ home and kills the uncle. The aunt then tells Paddington to go to London so he can start a new life. Following her instructions, Paddington then embarks on a wild adventure as he gets adopted by the quirky Brown family and gets hotly pursued by a sinister taxidermist played delightfully evil by Nicole Kidman.
Paddington is a cute film the whole family can enjoy. The humor is clean and the visuals are absolutely stunning. Not to mention, the story is original and full of surprises. Paddington is computer-animated set against a live action backdrop and the results are nothing short of excellent. Technical wizardry hasn’t been this good since Who Framed Roger Rabbit and this artistic style is very appropriate for Paddington. The film is also produced by David Heyman (Harry Potter series), so that can only be a positive.
With Paddington being an animated character, the rest of the film is populated by very talented human actors. The Brown family is a colorful bunch comprised of the stern patriarch Henry (Hugh Bonneville), the flighty matriarch Mary (Sally Hawkins), and the two children, emo-ish Judy (Madeleine Harris) and imaginative Jonathan (Samuel Joslin). Peter Capaldi (Doctor Who) also plays a grouchy neighbor and Nicole Kidman is in fine form as the film’s antagonist. With a cast this good, one can easily overlook the film’s computer-generated star.
Writer/director Paul King (Bunny and the Bull, The Mighty Boosh) has put together a brilliant picture with Paddington. The story is charming and the action sequences are exhilarating though not violent or inappropriate for the young ones. Kidman’s character might be a bit scary for toddlers but her performance isn’t too intense. Kids will be too busy marveling at the visual effects with Paddington and each wacky scenario he gets tangled up in.
Basically, films like Paddington don’t come around too often. This is such an energetic production and the character himself is so engaging that audiences will easily fall in love with the bear with the hat. There are a few ridiculous scenes like Henry Brown masquerading as a cleaning lady to sneak into a highly guarded archive facility and Peter Capaldi’s nosy neighbor is a bit cliché and in some instances, annoying but each of these mildly negative elements will be strongly overlooked by the film’s youthful demographic.