Is it wrong for a grown man to want a stuffed teddy bear. I’m asking for a friend…
“Paddington” is a film update of the beloved British children’s novels by Michael Bond about a talking bear in need of a home and what happens when his adventure crosses paths with a Britiish family and an evil museum taxidermist. It’s a simple story with a simple heart and at the end of the day I was simply smitten.
Seriously, right from the first frame, you get a sense for the humor and heart of these characters and this story as we are led through an absolutely adorable back story and set up. I was hooked from the start I mean first off, the animation work here is gorgeous. Paddington (and his family) feel like one hundred percent realized living, breathing, walking, talking, bears. Which by the way, I’m pretty sure don’t really exist, but after watching this I’m willing to hedge my bets. As are apparently the citizens of Great Britain whose nonchalance about the whole talking bear thing is one of the key pieces of humor that locked me in. Speaking of which this movie is refreshingly funny. Many of the laughs are from a real sense of wit and cleverness rather than the low hanging fruit that many kids movies live in. Not that there aren’t some pratfalls and gross out humor, its just that they are part of a more complete tone of humor, instead of relied on for cheap guffaws. Plus its great to see actors like Downton Abbey’s Hugh Bonneville, the incredible Jim Broadbent, and the newest Doctor, Peter Capaldi doing great work here and adding to this movie’s distinctly British feel, which offers a refreshing change of pace from the mile a minute kid’s movies we might be used to.
Of course that also could be it’s downfall. As I much as I find the pace refreshing and adorable, you might find it slow and sappy. There’s certainly that risk. If you go in expecting the typical snark and zing of the 21st century, I can imagine you might find the genuine sweetness of Paddington and this story to be a bit decaffeinated for your needs even if I thought it was fine. The only thing that really distracted me was Hugh Bonneville. It’s not particularly his fault, but I’ve seen him as Master Crawley so much, it’s kind of hard for him to shake the Downton off of him and play a broader role. Again, I think he’s fine, but I just kept expecting him to call up Carson to help him find his dinner cuff links. I also thought Nicole Kidman, though not awful as the antagonist, teetered into a bit of over performing every once in a while that also may be a bit off putting to some.
Overall, Paddington is a bit like a marmalade sandwich, sweet, simple, filling, and distinctly British. If you aren’t in the mood you may find it a tad hard to chew and a bit too syrupy, but even so I think there is enough warmth and humor here to find it’s eventual home with a B+