OldKingClancy posted a MOVIE REVIEW item: about 1 month ago

Paddington



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Directed by: Paul King
Written by: Paul King
Cast: Colin Firth, Sally Hawkins
Studio: Warner Brothers
Genre:
Official Site:
Plot: Silly Old Bear

Review:

With the sequel getting ludicrously high reviews and a general want for something lighter after opening the year with some quite heavy flicks, I figured I’d check out the live action Paddington film considering that for an adaptation of a children’s series it apparently wasn’t a cash-grab, plus I have some childhood memories of the stop-motion series (though in hindsight it looked better when I was younger). As expected, Paddington did turn out to be a good film but what I was not expecting was a film this charming, friendly and wholesome.

Seriously this film is like the national anthem for wholesome memes.

After an Earthquake destroys his home in Darkest Peru and kills his Uncle Pastuzo, a young bear is sent by his Aunt Lucy to London, the home of an explorer who met the bears several years earlier, introduced them to marmalade and promised them a warm welcome to the city. The bear arrives in the city only to find it’s not as well-mannered as he believed and he’s unable to find a new home; that is until The Brown family arrive. While Mr Brown wants nothing to do with strange talking bears in railway stations, Mrs Brown immediately warms to the bear and offers to let him stay with them for the night until they can find him a proper place to stay, naming him Paddington after the station they found him in.

Things don’t get off to the best of starts as the socially inexperience Paddington struggles to come to terms with everyday human life, as shown by him flooding the bathroom. However some of the family start warming to Paddington’s gentle nature and agree to help him track down the explorer who visited his Aunt and Uncle all those years ago. At the same time though, a cold-hearted taxidermist hears of the bear’s arrival to London and vows to track him down and add him to her collection.

Obviously there’s not a complicated plot here but that doesn’t mean it’s simplified either, the crux of the story is Paddington finding the explorer but the actual heart is his relationship with The Brown family and how he’s able to fit into their dysfunctional unit and help them rediscover what it means to be a family. The Taxidermist plot gives the film it’s climatic third act – with quite an unusual amount of intensity for a family friendly film – but it never takes away from the focus on Paddington and The Browns and how family can be found anywhere with just a little bit of love.

What made the film work was how game everyone was for the tone, while Nicole Kidman was maybe a little too evil to the point where she might be this generations Child Catcher, she played a good cold-hearted bitch and seemed to relish being so delightfully and unquestionably evil, no grey morality, no sense of honour, she just wanted to stuff animals and put them on display. Her reasoning for wanting Paddington do make for a nice twist for the character but they don’t change how despicable she was as a person.

Outside of the Brown family there were a few odd ducks here and there, a choice selection of British actors make a few cameo appearances, ranging from Matt Lucas as a Cockney taxi driver and Jim Broadbent as a German antique dealer, to former Wizarding Enemies Michael Gambon and Imelda Staunton as Uncle Pastuzo and Aunt Lucy respectively. The two main actors in the supporting cast were Julie Walters (another Potter alum) as the Brown’s elderly housekeeper Mrs Bird who had a stern attitude and a hard liver, and Peter Capaldi as their neighbour Mr Curry, a lonely old fart who inadvertently found himself manipulated by The Taxidermist due to the little attention she gives him.

The Brown Family themselves were a fun lot to be around, youngest Jonathan was enamoured with Paddington from the start and happy to have someone share his adventurous spirit while oldest child Judy did the usual teenage thing of brushing Paddington away for being an embarrassment but warmed to him after he proved to be a charming and curious little thing. Father Henry – played by 2nd most British name ever, Hugh Bonneville – was an overly cautious and needlessly careful man who tried to avoid any and all danger to the point of absolute boredom, the type of man who thought that the Victorian Wool Experience was a fun day out. For the majority of the film he played the antagonist to Paddington’s shenanigans, being the voice of pessimistic reason to the bear’s wide-eyed optimism, but like Judy the more time they spend together, they more Henry starts to come around to seeing Paddington as a member of the family, even relighting part of his rebellious youth before his children’s safety became his primary concern.

Standout of the cast though is Sally Hawkins as Mary Brown, I can’t remember the last time I saw a character filled with this much hope and love and optimism, she was a breath of fresh air in a world that’s increasingly feeling like a Black Mirror episode. You just got the sense that Mary wanted to see the good in every person and every situation, even when the rest of her family were sulking about Wool museums she was happy to be spending time with them all. Hawkins just completely enveloped the film’s message of tolerance and love and helped shape Mary into one of the most easy to like characters I’ve seen for a while, never straying too far to make her naive but keeping her always on the positive side of thinking.

Paddington himself managed to be a wonderful element of the film’s charm, a completely CGI creation and voice by New Q Ben Whisaw, Paddington is lovingly rendered into this world with the care and affection needed to make this type of film work. While he does cause some damage to the Brown Household, you can tell that his curiosity and his desire to learn are what drives him, rather than being stupid or ignorant and it’s that level of charm, of being unable to think ill of anyone comes off so delightful without being sickly. Part of why Paddington works is Whisaw’s voice, originally Paddington was to be voiced by Colin Firth and I like Firth but Paddington needed a younger voice to evoke the wonder and optimism that came from being a bear in London, there’s such a whimsical nature about him that Whisaw brings to the table that without it the character wouldn’t have worked as well.

The film is directed by Paul King, previously having only done an obscure little British film called Bunny & The Bill, but he does an absolutely splendid job here putting the whole thing together, obviously the film isn’t touching realism with a talking bear as its protagonist but King uses the children’s story origins of the character to heighten reality a tad, all the colours are just that little bit brighter, the whole film has this sheen to it that makes it stand out and still maintain a sense of warmth, the only time it doesn’t is in The Taxidermist office when everything feels rightfully cold, it’s the closest thing to a British Wes Anderson I’ve seen to date and helped keep the natural charm of the movie alive. Which was good because without that, some of what happens in the film might be considered ridiculous, Paddington flooding The Brown House is a wonderful calamity of disasters, an accidental chase scene sends Paddington flying with an umbrella and the finale has everything from Indiana Jones style door slides to Mission Impossible style chimney climbs with vacuum cleaner. And that’s not even touching on the smaller moments of absurd humour – the British guard with a flask in his hat was a highlight – this is a film that doesn’t take itself too seriously and is all the better for it.

What makes the film shine though is how accessible it is for all ages with a message of tolerance and kindness that’s suitable for all ages, the comparison to immigrants coming to the UK is clear but not forced down your throat, it keeps the message as simply, care for others as you would like to be cared for. It’s rare to see a family film this suited for the whole family not made by Pixar, the overreliance on pop culture and fart jokes are hard to ignore and speaking as a guy who likes pop culture and fart jokes, the fact that this film didn’t have any made it work that much better. Much like the bear himself, the film had a warm heart that was welcoming of all people to come and follow this silly little adventure.

Where Paddington works above most other live-action/CGI Family Films is that it’s not trying to be anything other than a simple, charming little flick, it’s honestly just brimming with such warmth that I can only recommend you see it yourself to understand how good it actually is at promoting goodness. The central story has a ton of heart, the cast are game for the silliness with Hawkins and Paddington himself being the standouts of love and care and the whole film is warm colourful, funny and tender. It’s a rare film that can bring a smile to your face just by being itself, but this one delivers.


8.5/10

Other reviews of this film: MrsData (9/10) , Horrorfan99 (8/10) > Display all


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