I was never much of a big fan of the animated series or books featuring “Paddington” and it never quite crossed my path as a kid as much as Dr. Seuss or Curious George did. It’s a shame because “Paddington” is such a pure and wholesome hero whose good intentions always reward him time and time again. Too often do we see good intentions repaid with disaster, but in “Paddington” it’s refreshing to see a hero like Paddington attempt to do good and fall in to love, appreciation, and a bonafide family.
While “Paddington” mixes CGI and live action like films such as “The Smurfs,” Paul King’s adaptation is surprisingly subtle and relies a lot on the charms of the title character to move the narrative forward. There’s no cloying over sentimentality or cheap plot device. It’s merely a story of a misplaced soul who finds some semblance of kindness in a big metropolis. Ben Whishaw’s performance is stellar, as he portrays Paddington, a young a cub that lives with his aunt and uncle in a tree top home. The trio is obsessed with marmalade, and revel in making their share of it for special occasions.
When their home is torn down thanks to a horrendous earthquake, Paddington’s aunt sends him to the big city to find a new home and family. Just his luck, he comes across Mary Brown, the matriarch of the Brown family, who takes pity on the bear and brings him home with their eccentric family. Paul King’s wonderful direction turns the live action world of “Paddington” in to a virtual moving storybook. King finds great ways to bring exposition to a slew of surprisingly lovable and charming characters, and manages to show us how Paddington views the sprawling urban landscape he’s found a home in.
“Paddington” is a charming and briskly paced movie with some genuine laughs behind it. The cast play the gags fairly straight faced, adding to the film’s sharp wit. There are so many fun scenes including a bathroom mishap involving Paddington, and a hysterical scene in an elevator involving Paddington’s “hard stare.” The all star cast do a bang up job, including Sally Hawkins, Peter Capaldi, Hugh Bonneville, and Nicole Kidman, who plays the evil taxidermist Millicent Clyde, who wants to turn Paddington in to a stuff display piece for her museum. “Paddington” isn’t just a great children’s film, but it’s a film everyone can enjoy. It’s a gem of an adaptation I hope becomes a classic.