Don’t adjust your TV set – errrr I mean your monitor – you are reading this correctly. PADDINGTON, written and directed by Paul King, is one of the best live-action children’s films, period. Fans of the books will be delighted that after all these years, their favorite marmalade-obsessed bear is getting the treatment he deserves. Released in the UK over two months ago, PADDINGTON is already doing gangbusters overseas. With a strong cast, Wes Anderson-style production design, and a charming script, this film is as entertaining for adults as it is for children. If you don’t want to take my word for it, just look at its near-perfect rating on Rotten Tomatoes!
Created by Michael Bond in his story A Bear Called Paddington (1958), Paddington has been a staple in homes for over 50 years. So, it’s no surprise that since production was first announced, the film has been held to high standards under the watchful eye of the public. At first, things weren’t looking good for Paddington. Fans thought the CGI work looked “creepy” and the situation got particularly iffy when Colin Firth, who was voicing Paddington, decided to exit the production. Did he know something we didn’t? As it turns out, Firth and the director agreed that the voice of Paddington needed to be younger, so Ben Whishaw stepped up to the mic. I will never begrudge Colin Firth’s silky voice, but I think the filmmakers (and Firth) made the right decision.
Hailing from Darkest Peru, Paddington stows away in a ship bound for London after his home is destroyed by an earthquake (or was it logging and the bears didn’t know what it was?). After all, he had heard great tales about London from his aunt and uncle, who were taught English by a famous British Explorer. Without a home, the bear hangs out at the Paddington train station (his eventual namesake) fighting off a hungry band of pigeons. Thankfully it isn’t long until the Brown family comes upon Paddington, fresh off of the heels of a vacation. Free-spirited Mrs. Brown (Sally Hawkins) takes an immediate liking to the bear and invites him to come home with them. However tight-laced, risk-assessment Mr. Brown (Hugh Bonneville) isn’t as keen on the idea. He agrees to let Paddington stay for one night, but due to the bear’s inexperience with human life, he creates chaos wherever her goes. Disorder is unacceptable to the uptight Mr. Brown, and thus Paddington’s future in the house is threatened.
Meanwhile, an evil taxidermist named Millicent (Nicole Kidman) becomes aware of this new English-speaking species of bear and wants to stuff him for a display in the Natural History Museum. With some help from a nosy neighbor (Peter Capaldi), she is able to track down Paddington’s location, but will she succeed with her dastardly plot?
The entire cast is phenomenal. Sally Hawkins’ kind, loving performance combined with Hugh Bonneville’s transition from rigid to… less rigid skeptic is the heart of the film. But Nicole Kidman’s Cruella Deville-esque villain is the most entertaining performance of all. From repelling down from the ceiling :ahem: Mission Impossible style, to rocking some KILLER outfits, I would like to see an entire spinoff film that follows her character (as long as no animals are harmed, of course). Hopefully we will get to see more of her if there is a follow-up film.
PADDINGTON made me laugh out loud in my seat many times, and was a genuinely delightful film. A love letter to the much-loved bear, and London itself, this film will entertain you as much as your kids.
My Review: A-