Paddington is far better than I would have ever expected it to be.
Having spent a handful of years living north of London as a kid, I’m completely familiar with the character of Paddington, a talking bear taken in by a British family, has served as a popular U.K. children’s series for well over fifty years. While there have been cartoon adaptations of the series over the years, this is the first attempt to bring the beloved bear to a live-action form.
And it succeeds with flying colors.
Just like last years The Lego Movie and Big Hero 6, Paddington is a film aimed at kids, but is so brilliantly written and oozing charming, that I would find it hard for a person of any age to walk out of the theater not having had a fantastic time. Not only does it accomplish the goal of entertaining it’s younger audience with slapstick comedy and surprisingly energetic action sequences, it also creates an emotional connection for it’s mature viewers, something I wasn’t expecting. Typically with films of well-known characters (I’m looking at you Garfield and The Smurfs), these stories and character rely purely on their popularity, and phone it in when it comes to the actual film. In Paddington‘s case, we not only get the main plot of a taxidermist wanting to capture Paddington, but we get an extensive, smart, and emotional backstory for the characters involved. Coupling that with the wonderful comedy throughout, and we get a film far better than you’d think we ever deserved.
Ben Whishaw voices the titular role of Paddington, with Hugh Bonneville and Sally Hawkins filling the roles of his human caretakers, Mr. and Mrs. Brown. Nicole Kidman plays the villainous taxidermist out to get Paddington. Further supporting roles come from Julie Walters, Peter Capaldi, Jim Broadbent, and some additional voice work from Michael Gambon. The comedic timing coming from each actor is excellent, and really elevates the film as a whole. I have to give special recognition to Hugh Bonneville, who balances his physically comedy perfectly with an offshoot version of his Downton Abbey character.
Paddington really is a wonderful surprise. The initial trailer for it had me excited, but history with these types of films left me anticipating a train wreck. Thankfully justice has been done to this property, creating an awesome, wholesome film to kick off 2015 for American audiences. And you even get a fun Paddington song from Gwen Stefani during the credits.