Written and Directed by Paul King / Starring Ben Whishaw, Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins and Nicole Kidman
Mrs. Brown: What’s the worst that could happen?
The month of January is widely known as a dumping ground for the worst films of the year, so when the long awaited Paddington Bear adaptation, simply entitled PADDINGTON, was slated for January, many worried. Thankfully, the film oozes with charm and good fun.
Paddington (voiced by Ben Whishaw, who replaced Colin Firth) was raised in Peru, by his Aunt Lucy (Imelda Staunton) and Uncle Pastuzo (Michael Gambon). When his uncle dies, Paddington is sent to England in search of a proper home. The Brown family spots Paddington at a train station in London, and after being pressured by his wife and kids, Mr. Brown (Downton Abbey’s Hugh Bonneville) invites Paddington to spend the night in his home. Those familiar with the books will know that Paddington always manages to get himself into trouble, and this is exactly what happens as soon as he steps into the Browns’ home. Meanwhile, an evil taxidermist played by Nicole Kidman, plots to kidnap and stuff the beloved bear.
PADDINGTON is so delightful that it may be impossible to dislike. The film manages to be extremely entertaining and funny, while still maintaining the heart of Michael Bond’s stories. Director Paul King manages to have the small CGI bear feel like an actual human character in a regular film. At just over ninety minutes, the film is packed with many action set pieces, and it knows exactly where to draw the line.
The only negative aspect of the film comes in the form of Kidman’s Millicent. Kidman seems to be playing the role with minimal effort, and most of her deviance comes in the form of an atrocious blonde bob wig. Her side story feels just a bit out of place, and really only comes to matter during the film’s final act.
For the most part, the humor in Paddington is rather smart. With the exception of a gag involving the bear’s ear wax, there is no crude humour in the film, a style that is too often used in children’s films for cheap laughs. Many of the laughs come from Bonneville as the patriarch of the Brown Family, which is refreshing change from his stuffy Earl of Grantham character. PADDINGTON provides Bonnville with his first major film role since the success of Downton Abbey (let’s pretend that THE MONUMENTS MEN never happened), so it is nice to see the chap having a bit of fun.
Paddington shows us that besides the expanded releases of the Oscar films, there is a light at the end of the month that is January. So grab your raincoat and a marmalade sandwich, and go see what is surely to be one of the best family films of the year.