Published Jan 16, 2015Posters and other promotional material for Paddington made a big hubbub about this film being produced by the person who brought you the Harry Potter series. If that leaves a bit of a sour taste in your mouth (and it should, because those films are terrible), then keep in mind that the film was written and directed by Paul King (i.e. long-running director for hilarious British comedy, The Mighty Boosh).
Of course, it's a lot easier to sell parents on a children's movie when it praises the financiers of some J.K. Rowling films, rather than the guy who captured the sinister side of Old Gregg, but make no mistake: Paddington — what with its wacky witticisms and perfect comedic pacing — is as much for parents as it is their kids.
If you grew up reading the books by Michael Bond or watching one of its many television adaptations, there are no surprises here: Paddington tells the story of an overly polite bear (voiced by Ben Whishaw) from deepest, darkest Peru with a worrying obsession with marmalade sandwiches and penchant for getting himself into trouble. When an earthquake strikes his home, Paddington is forced to leave his aging aunt behind and venture off to England in the hopes of finding refuge under the care of Montgomery Clyde, an explorer who visited his family many years ago and introduced them to British mannerisms and customs.
It is in England that he meets the Brown family, a spitting image of 1960s middle class Britishness updated here for modern times (their daughter blocks out her parents by listening to a pair of Beats by Dre headphones, of course). But when a troublesome taxidermist by the name of Millicent (Nicole Kidman) finds out about the talking bear and sees him as a prized specimen for her collection, Paddington must fight to stay alive and at home with his adoptive family in the UK.
Aiding him on his journey is a sincerely charming cast of characters executed perfectly by the best of British film and television. Downton Abbey's Hugh Bonneville delights as the stuffy and serious father with a secretly cool past, and Sally Hawkins frequently steals the show as the family's aloof but mesmerizing mother Mary. It's Whishaw who shines brightest though, with his soothing voice and gentle disposition working wonders behind the hard and soft stares of the CGI bear.
Those looking for problems will certainly find them in the film's more sentimental moments (the film portrays an idealistic version of the immigrant experience that stands in stark contrast to the truth of the matter), but Anglophiles and hardcore fans alike need not worry about their beloved bear being bastardized in his first feature length film adaptation; although steering slightly away from its original source material, Paddington succeeds by keeping the spirit of his story alive for future generations.