I’m not really sure what I was expecting from Paddington as I first watched it, but it reminded me of something that I wished more family films had carried in this day and age. It carries all the best aspects of any family movie so that kids can enjoy it, but even adults would be left in awe as they watch together with their own children. It’s a film that knows how to invite a new audience to come along the ride, because it’s hard not to be won over by the sweetness of the presence of Paddington Bear himself. Those of you who would come into Paddington only expecting as much as a cute film about a bear coming into England will end up finding something more special, because what that sets oneself up for is a live action/CGI hybrid for the family done right.
Ben Whishaw offers his own voice to the titular Paddington Bear, a bear who migrated from the jungles of Peru to London, where he ends up meeting the Brown family. The Brown family, fittingly having given him the name after finding him at Paddington Station, decide to take him in as a member of their own family – but at the same time he has also captured the eye of a cruel taxidermist who wants to experiment on Paddington for herself. Based on the children’s book series by Michael Bond, Paddington doesn’t keep itself confined as merely a cute animal film – it embraces its childlike nature in order to bring so many viewers back like a memory, yet not without its own more intelligent moments.
The best thing that a film like Paddington can be is funny – and at that it does its job perfectly. It’s a very funny film that still creates a warm and welcoming atmosphere for viewers of all sorts, but its own bite at the immigration process speaks for its own unexpected intelligence that allows it to speak on a greater level. For the kids the delivery of a funny one-liner alongside the creative visual style will already leave oneself in awe, but for adults it’s hard enough not to be won over by its own childlike sense of wonder coming forth by the very premise or the Brown family themselves, because everything about the way this world is set up is just so immensely likeable.
But for as much as it may be easy to fall in love with the fact that Paddington keeps everything so likeable for audiences of all sorts, the pleasantness doesn’t quite come forward in the same way whenever Nicole Kidman’s bit comes along. Granted, it’s not her fault because she does offer the very best as an evil taxidermist but what bothers me about her presence in Paddington is the way that her character’s role in the story comes along, because it feels so unnecessarily dark and leaves behind a glaring tonal inconsistency that feels far too distracting. Granted, this is a small issue but considering her own motivations regarding what she intends to do with Paddington, I’m a bit unsure why it needs to suddenly turn so dark because it seems too far distanced from the gleeful nature that Paddington wishes to celebrate all throughout.
Nevertheless, the best parts of Paddington represent the very best of family cinema in recent years. It’s hard enough not to be won over by such a cute creation in Paddington Bear himself, because his innocence is only a part of what makes the film so charming as a whole. Sure, it’s aimed towards children but I don’t see how adult viewers can’t be warmed up from watching Paddington because it feels like a perfect encapsulation of what made one’s own childhood such a pleasant time. It’s that very pleasantness that makes Paddington a perfect film for the family, for Paul King doesn’t only keep the appeal geared towards children but he welcomes anyone to step in and meet Paddington for themselves.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via StudioCanal.
Directed by Paul King
Screenplay by Paul King, from Paddington Bear by Michael Bond
Produced by David Heyman
Starring Ben Whishaw, Sally Hawkins, Hugh Bonneville, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent, Peter Capaldi, Nicole Kidman
Release Year: 2014
Running Time: 95 minutes