I grew up reading the Paddington books, so when I first heard about a movie coming out I was disappointed. I thought it was another part of my childhood torn apart to make a quick buck. So when I walked out the cinema with a huge smile on my face, I was very surprised.
Paddington is probably the biggest surprise this year (tied with Hercules). It really has everything a good family film needs. It’s got heart, charm, comedy and a chase through London with a flying Bear. Yes. You read that right. It’s glorious.
Paddington is directed by Paul King who is famous for directing ‘The Mighty Boosh” (And not much else). It follows the story of a Bear named Paddington (Ben Whishaw) from darkest Peru who travels to London to find a new home. He runs into The Browns, Mr. Brown (Hugh Bonneville), Mrs. Brown (Sally Hawkins), Jonathan (Samuel Joslin) and Judy (Madeleine Harris). The Browns reluctantly take Paddington in for one night before they send him to the authorities and chaos ensues.
Paul King does a great job as director. You can tell he really likes the source material, so he treats it with respect, only taking one liberty, which I’ll get back too, but for the most part this feels like a book I would have read as a child and it gives the film a real sense of nostalgia.
Most of the cast does a good job, but there are three standout performances. The first is Ben Whishaw (Cloud Atlas). When I heard Whishaw was cast as the voice of Paddington my expectations dropped even lower. Thankfully he is the perfect fit, and now that I think about it, I’m glad the Collin Firth dropped out of the role, because I seriously doubt he could top Whishaw. The next one is Hugh Bonneville (The Monuments Men) he does a great job. He has a lot of fun with the role. The third one is Sally Hawkins (Godzilla) She also has a lot of fun here and her chemistry with Bonneville is just great, they both seem like they had a really fun time on set.
For the most part Paddington is a great film, but it does have its problems, and they are all pretty big. The first would be Nicole Kidman. Nicole Kidman plays the story’s main villain. Normally there would be nothing wrong with that, but in Paddington there is. Honestly there was no need for a villain. Easily the best bits of the film were when Paddington is getting to know London. There are some really funny moments, and there could have been a lot more of those, but instead of that, King decided he wanted a big villain. That’s also the only liberty he took from the books, because as far as I remember, Paddington was never one to take on the bad guys, and there was definitely never anyone out to kill him. To add to the needlessness f her character, Kidman gives an out of place performance. I won’t say bad performance, because quite frankly, it isn’t, but it is definitely out of place. Kidman plays her character as if she were out of a cartoon. The big hand gestures, the emphasis on her words, her look. It all feels out of a cartoon or a cartoony movie. She would be perfect in one of those Scooby-Doo movies, but not here.
Another problem I had was the character of Judy Brown. Judy is a 12(?) year old girl who is going through this total rebellious phase which is normally gone through by 16 year olds. So the film either cast the character wrong or it’s a mistake in the script. I think it’s a mix of both. The script in Paddington, while mostly good, it sometimes crosses over from sweet to sappy, and it sometimes crosses over from sappy to straight up cringe worthy. I cringed many, many times in this film, especially in the last half hour.
The final problem I had was the effects. Paddinton himself looks great, but sadly I can’t say that for anything else. I seems as though the entire budget was siphoned into Paddington, then they realized that they had other effects to put in. Some other effects are passable, but mostly they’re bad, but not bad enough to take you out of the film.
So, overall, Paddington is a pretty good family movie. Its comedy will get the kids, but adults will find it a bit hit and miss, but the adults will like it because of its sheer charm. The film gets by on a boat of charm, sweetness, and pro-immigration social commentary.