Director: Paul King
Stars: Hugh Bonneville, Peter Capaldi, Nicole Kidman, Ben Whishaw, Sally Hawkins, Samuel Joslin, Madeline Harris, Julie Walters, Michael Gambon, Imelda Staunton
Paddington brings to life the beloved book series by Michael Bond. A young bear from deepest, darkest Peru journeys to London after his home is torn apart by a volcano. Expecting a warm welcome, Paddington is surprised to find that London is much less friendly place than he was hoping. However, a family, the Browns, take him in as he searches for the explorer who first found his family. Meanwhile, Millicent (Kidman) hears of the bear’s arrival and is eager to stuff him and him to her collection.
I used to be a big fan of Paddington when I was younger, so much so that at one point I got my mother to make me marmalade sandwiches to take to school. I was then devastated to find that I didn’t like them, because it meant I wasn’t like Paddington.
The film is delightfully charming and taps into the childhood nostalgia. However, it’s also a well-made film with a brisk plot, a great deal of humor that ranges from wit to slapstick, and although parts could be a little scary for young children I think it will appeal to people of different generations. I took great joy in seeing Paddington interact with this new world, in fact it was so lovely that I could have enjoyed the film without the plot, such was the warmth imbued in the characters. It was funny to see Paddington deal with modern appliances and try to endear himself to the Browns.
There was also some commentary on our present day outlook as well. Paddington has an idealized view of London where people are kind and eager to help strangers, yet when he arrives most everyone ignores him. It’s a sharp indictment on the way we treat people in need, and some of the moments that explored Paddington’s loneliness were truly moving (but then again I am a complete sap for those kinds of things).
The film moved quickly and although a lot of the tension in the family was made up of things we’ve seen a million times before they don’t outstay their welcome. Visually, the film was great. Paddington looked amazing and felt a part of the world, and there were some nice directorial tricks that I loved, like the opening of a dollhouse to show what’s going on around the house. Despite the plot not being too important (at least for me) there was a good payoff at the end to some jokes that ran throughout the film.
I found myself surprised at how much I enjoyed Paddington. I think it taps into the cultural psyche of Englishness and reminds us of who we should be. I enjoyed it from start to finish and it’s difficult to find fault with it. I think it’s a true family film where people of all ages can find value in it and it will also provide a nice stroll down memory lane for a lot of us.