Alexandra Kowal ’14 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Based on the popular children’s books by Michael Bond, Paddington tells the story of a little bear who travels all the way from his home in darkest Peru to the bustling city of London. There, Paddington searches for a family to take him in—armed with just a suitcase, his uncle’s hat from a visiting British explorer (complete with emergency marmalade sandwich inside), and a label reading “Please look after this bear. Thank you.”
Although London is a less friendly place than Paddington imagined, he is taken in by the kindhearted Brown family, who help him look for the explorer who visited Peru all those years ago. But it is soon clear to see that the little bear belongs with the Browns, whether Mr. Brown (Hugh Bonneville) knows it or not. Paddington brings the family together during his adventures, and learns what it means to be loved and accepted in the process.
Paddington purists might take issue with some of the liberties taken in the film adaptation, but director Paul King really did a fine job of updating the story and bringing it into the modern age. By mixing elements of different time periods—most of the film is set in modern times but there are anachronistic touches, like a modern train appearing in an old-fashioned station—King is able to evoke the feel of the 1950s era from the original book as well as present day, giving Paddington a sense of timelessness.
In this new version of the tale, Paddington’s unintentional mischief and the trouble it causes are still at the heart of the plot. He is given more backstory in the film, but the bulk of the movie revolves around casual daily occurrences and how Paddington and the Brown family deal with them. However, the most notable difference from the book series is the inclusion of a villainous plot to capture the rare bear. Nicole Kidman shines as the absolutely insane taxidermist bent on adding Paddington to her collection. Although all of her scenes are completely ridiculous, Kidman plays the part with gusto and therefore gives the character’s craziness a sense of whimsy that saves the role. Whether or not the taxidermist storyline is necessary to unify the plot—otherwise the film might have just been a collection of short scenes of Paddington’s daily life—is up for debate. Yet, it lends a bit of fun action to the film and raises the stakes for Paddington and the Browns.
The movie has a quintessentially British feel—the number of marmalade references alone sees to that—but its blend of heart, humor, and quality acting makes Paddington an appealing viewing experience for just about anyone. However, Anglophiles will especially delight at seeing some of their favorite stars on-screen; Paddington features such famous British actors as Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent and even current Doctor Who star, Peter Capaldi.
Ben Whishaw provides an excellent voice for Paddington and the animation is first-rate. Not only are the bears adorable, but there are certain artistic flourishes throughout the movie that are stunning. For example, in one scene where Paddington is describing his odd new family, the camera pans over to a dollhouse and zooms in to see the Brown family interacting inside it—a beautiful scene in miniature. Besides great visuals, Paddington is also full of heart, with some nice takeaways like how everyone is different in London but that means everyone can fit in. Truly, it’s hard to leave the theater without having fallen in love with the story of this comical bear and his new family.
Paddington has a little something for everyone. The entire film is incredibly cute and funny, with some tear jerker scenes and action sequences thrown in for good measure. It’s the rare film that is humorous and heartwarming at the same time, leaving viewers with an important message of kindness and acceptance. Although the film is obviously geared toward children, there are enough clever jokes thrown in that adults will love it too. Hopefully, people will go out to see Paddington because this is one family-friendly film that’s absolutely worth watching.
Overall Grade: A