When it comes to movies about talking bears, Paddington sits somewhere between Winnie the Pooh and Ted. Yes, that’s right. I’m comparing the gentle, Marmalade-eating animal to the stuffed child’s toy that curses, but only as an example of the other extreme. In general, Paddington will make you laugh and cry and let you enjoy watching an actor from Downton Abbey get all silly.
Here, the polite little bear, created by English author Michael Bond in 1958, travels from his home in darkest Peru—after an earthquake strikes—to London, where he gets unofficially adopted by the Brown family (headed by Hugh Bonneville). As much trouble as he causes in their home, a taxidermist (Nicole Kidman) determined to add the bear to her collection causes more.
Most of the chaos wreaked by Paddington’s arrival at the Brown home, as well as in London, should bring a smile to your face, and is choreographed with the kindest touch by director Paul King. This includes Paddington stopping a pickpocket (a nicely done sequence), trying to go up a down escalator, flooding a bathroom and, perhaps most amusingly, grappling with some Scotch tape.
At times King seems to be channeling Wes Anderson, particularly in how he introduces us to the Brown’s home, visualizing it as a dollhouse that opens up so we can see it in cross-section. Then he goes room by room, familiarizing us with the family and their quirks via narration by Paddington himself (voiced warmly by Ben Whishaw, a.k.a. Q in the most recent James Bond flicks).
And each cast member does their part making this an entertaining experience—the always welcome Sally Hawkins as the mother, Julie Walters as Mrs. Bird, Madeline Harris and Samuel Joslin as the kids, Jim Broadbent as eccentric Mr. Gruber, and the current Dr. Who, Peter Capaldi, as a nosy neighbor. Bonneville, in particular, lets his silly flag fly, even dressing in drag at one point.
The slight sense of menace embodied by Kidman and her quest keeps the movie from being wholly inoffensive. Kidman knocks people out with little darts, briefly brandishes a gun, etc., stuff that might frighten the most sensitive tots. Still, she makes a classy villain, slinking around in a blonde wig and purring out threats. She seems to be having a great time. I think you will, too. – [DVD] [Blu-Ray]
DVD Release Date: 4/28/15