Director: Paul King
Cast: Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Jim Broadbent, Nicole Kidman, Ben Whishaw
Release Date: January 16th, 2015
When The LEGO Movie arrived in theaters in early 2014, viagra approved expectations were low. How could a movie focused on a type of toy work as a full-length feature film? But in that scenerio, treatment the filmmakers surprised their audience by embracing a simple concept— a simple story told in LEGOs— and crafting it into a clever, original and hilarious cinematic delight.
The filmmakers behind the new family comedy Paddington did a similar thing by embracing their idea of featuring a talking Peruvian bear but then building a lovely and delightful story around it..
Paddington– a talking bear voiced by Ben Whishaw— is animated while the characters that surround him are real actors playing against the loveable protagonist. The gimmick works here because the dynamic between the Browns— the kind family that adopts Paddington— and the bear himself are so well established.
When the story opens, Paddington is a young bear in darkest Peru whose family once befriended a kind discoverer who visited their community and embraced the creatures in it. The discoverer left Peru but noted that the bears should one day visit his hometown of London themselves and look him up. Years later, the young Paddington takes the arduous journey alone. While seemingly abandoned at the train station, a family led by Henry Brown (Hugh Bonneville) and his kind-hearted wife Mary (Sally Hawkinss) takes him in. It’s here where the film excels as it colorfully introduces the quirky but caring family (which includes two children and an aunt that with them).
Director/writer Paul King (who is credited for coming up with the story alongside Hamish McColl) takes the normal premise but splashes a distinct life into it making the story look and feel like it came straight out of a children’s book. When Paddington causes a flood in the bathroom upstairs, it isn’t enough for the water to rise up in the room. The bathtub has to serve as a boat for the overwhelmed bear as he attempts to row his way out of trouble. The scene is cartoonish but with a talking bear as its main character, the film can afford to up the silliness, especially with a script that embraces the absurdity of it all.
The production of the film is remarkably original with its brand of distinctive characters thriving in the contemporary world (the comparison to Wes Anderson’s films are well-deserved). Henry, for one, is a risk analyst who is constantly weighing the risks of housing a bear (one of the first calls he makes when the bear comes into his home is to an insurance company to ask about covering the temporary adoption of a bear). In lovely short flashbacks though, we see why this character became the way he was (in fact, several of the characters are well-defined by the brief flashbacks that help tell their stories).
Making the Brown’s family life worse is Millicent, the villainous taxidermist character played by Nicole Kidman, who obsesses over recovering the bear.
From start to finish, Paddington is delightfully-produced and brilliantly-scripted. Although some elements of the plot are predictable, the script is clever enough to make even the most mundane scenes stand out. The little details stand out in even the shortest scenes.
For example, when Paddington meets the Brown family at the train station early on, there’s an electrical sign behind him that states “Lost and Found.” When the Brown family welcomes the bear into their arms, the “Found” sign suddenly lights up. It’s a small but distinct moment that shows that the filmmakers were eager to make this movie much more than typical family fare. They were successful. If you’re looking for the year’s first excellent family film, you– like the Browns themselves– have “found” something special in Paddington.
Review by: John Hanlon