The bear’s still creepy.
After an earthquake hits his home in darkest Peru, a young, talking bear (Ben Whishaw) is forced to move elsewhere in life. His aunt suggests a fine place called London, where she was once told, many years ago by an explorer, that if they were to come and visit, they’d be accepted with open arms. However, it’s only the young bear who can come and visit, so that’s what he does in hopes of meeting that explorer and adapting to regular, human customs. As soon as the young bear shows up in London, though, he’s left alone and with nowhere else to go, that is, until he gets seen by the Brown family. While the mother, Mary (Sally Hawkins), is accepting of this homeless little bear who is desperately in need of a home, her husband, Henry (Hugh Bonneville), couldn’t be bothered. Eventually, he caves in and decides to keep the bear in their place until it can find its original owner. But also occurring at the same time is a taxidermist (Nicole Kidman) who finds out that this rare bear is alive and walking on London’s surface, which puts her deadly sights on him.
Oh, and he has a name, and it’s Paddington.
While I’m not all that familiar with Paddington, its history, and all of that, I have to say, everything leading up to this movie didn’t make me have anymore interest. Not only did Colin Firth leave about half-way through production, but the movie itself had to be pushed back from its holiday time-slot, all the way to the death ring that is January. Also, Paddington himself seemed a bit creepy and it didn’t help that the movie continued to advertise wacky, slapstick-ish hijinx surrounding him accidentally breaking stuff. Basically, nothing was looking good for this movie and it seemed like it would just be another failed attempt bringing the whole family together for movie night – a staple that should always be held.
Well, somehow, it all worked out.
There’s something inherently sweet about Paddington that goes past just being for the whole family. Sure, there’s plenty of jokes aimed towards both the kids, as well as the adults, but they aren’t the same types of jokes that the later would be ashamed in seeing come from something aimed towards kids. More or less, the jokes here that appeal to the adults in the room, are tricky, clever plays on words that seem to realize that, in order to have your audience laughing, you can’t just spoon-feed them everything. A slap, a hit, or a trip is fine and all for the kids, but don’t forget about the grown-ups who have to usually sit through these things; which is what writer/director Paul King doesn’t forget about.
But that said, the movie is still fine for kids to watch, if not more exciting. While Paddington, the bear, still rubs me the wrong way a bit, there’s no denying the fact that the kids who see this will become enthralled with him and why shouldn’t they? He’s live, walking, and talking CGI-bear that spouts words of kindness to those around him and, sometimes without ever trying to do so, ends up saving the day in ways he doesn’t expect. He truly is the kind of character that mostly all kids should see a movie about and it’s nice to see justice be done to him; and this is all coming from a person who didn’t know all that much about Paddington to begin with.
And voicing Paddington, Ben Whishaw does a fine job, portraying a certain style of fun and innocence that I don’t quite think Firth would have been able to portray quite as well. That’s not to say Whishaw’s better than Firth in ways, but here, for this specific role, it seems obvious that the former would take over the job of the later, if only because it seems like Firth would have been a tad too “royal” for a character as goofy as Paddington. Still, it’s a surprise that the people behind this were able to get Firth to do this in the first place, let alone have him already shoot half of his scenes before he eventually realized what he was doing and decided to just do a bunch of promo for Kingsman, as it should be.
There’s also plenty of human characters here too, and they also do fine jobs to where they don’t get over-shadowed by the bear, which would have been very hard not to have happen. Hugh Boneville’s character may seem like a stern tight-ass, but eventually, there are certain shades to him where we see that it all comes from a reason and believe it or not, there’s still some fun left in him; Sally Hawkins is equally delightful as his wife and gives some sort of personality to Mary that goes past just being kind and peaceful to all those around her; and Nicole Kidman, surprisingly, does a good job here as the villain of the story, playing up a comedic-side to her that we don’t usually see.
Or, if we do, it’s usually in something like Bewitched, where her skills are absolutely wasted, but if anything Paddington proves, it’s that Nicole Kidman should play more baddies, as well as be funny.
If there’s anything that keeps me away from giving Paddington the full-on, full-out praise that mostly everybody else on the face of the planet has been able to do, it’s that I felt as if the political themes and ideas were a tad bit odd, especially given the fact in how they were placed into the story. While the movie makes it a point to not make it a total point that there is in fact a bear walking all around the streets and nobody literally batting an eye, there’s something strange in how it seems like it’s discussing immigration, but not really discussing it at all. Paddington, the character, is all alone and left without much of a home, but it’s up to the government and possible suitors who may be able to take him in and make him their own.
A little odd, right? My feelings exactly, but then again, it’s a kids movie so little things like that probably should be disregarded.
In other words, just don’t listen to me.
Consensus: Fun, light and appropriate enough for just about every member of any given family, Paddington is a joyous and sweet little ride that offers up a likable character to a new generation of possible fans and with good reason.
8 / 10