Articles, Film Reviews

Paddington (2015)

Live action kids movies that focus on computer animated characters are either hit or miss. On one side, you’ve got films like Casper and Stuart Little. And on the other side, you’ve got uninspiring failures such as Yogi Bear and The Smurfs. Fortunately, Paddington belongs in the former group. But this adaptation of Michael Bond’s classic children’s character is more than just a fun live action film with a computer animated bear. It’s a smart and energized family film with many lessons to be learned beneath its zany, candy-coated shell.

Paddington Bear was first introduced in Bond’s 1958 book A Bear Called Paddington. Since then, the character has flourished with an expansive legacy that includes numerous books, television series, and merchandise. Therefore, the character’s strong cultural impact led me to think that a half live action, half computer animated film would be more tarnishing than complimentary. However, Paddington the movie should be welcomed with open arms because it wonderfully adheres to the qualities that made Bond’s original stories so special.

Directed by Paul King, best known for his directorial contributions to The Mighty BooshPaddington is rich in color and in character. The film is so all over the place in terms of approach and style, it’s actually quite amazing how fluid and comprehensive it really is. Imagine a heartfelt movie dipped in a surreal Wes Anderson-esque world in which some bears speak English and prefer to eat marmalade sandwiches.

The film follows the titular bear (voiced by Ben Whishaw), who is sent by his aunt from the darkest Peru to find comfort in London after an earthquake strikes their home. Failing to find some form of residence in London, Paddington is taken in by the Brown family for one night only. While proving to be a nuisance for Mr. Brown (Hugh Bonneville), Paddington sets out to find a Londoner explorer who befriended his aunt and uncle many years prior. In the meantime, a sadistic museum taxidermist in the vein of Cruella de Vil named Millicent (Nicole Kidman) learns of Paddington’s existance and seeks to track him down.

It’s definitely a film full of dark themes for children, but the goofballish cast of characters evens out the tone; the comedic variety director King found in his cast surprised me. From the strictly gung-ho neighbor played by Peter Capaldi to the enthusiastically observant nanny played by Julie Walters, there is a great range of personality in this film. Pleasant bit parts also include Simon Farnaby as a flirty security guard and Matt Lucas as a daffy cab driver. Though to me, it was Sally Hawkins who shined the most as the particularly charming Mrs. Brown, a supportive mother character that Paddington is in great need of after arriving in London.

Overall, Paddington is a delightful family film that both children and parents will enjoy. With a compelling attractiveness in visual design and sheer scope, the film knows how to entertain by combining together a grand amount of imagination and humor. Kind of like Martin Scorsese’s HugoPaddington captures the true nature of movie magic and establishes an enchanting live action world supplemented with visual effects. In fact, it’s probably one of the best family films in recent years that isn’t totally animated.

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