Overview: Based on the popular children’s books by writer Michael Bond, Paddington follows a young bear in his quest to find a home in London. 2014. StudioCanal. Rated PG. 95 minutes.
The Characters: The Brown family is made up of a familiar cast of characters: a kind and loving wife, a strict and overly careful father, an angst-filled teenage daughter, and an excitable dreamer of a son. But what Paddington gets right that other films usually get wrong is the way every character has an individual and fulfilling arc. Everyone wants something. From Paddington to Mr. Brown, every character has something to learn and some way to contribute to the story, and writer and director Paul King never forgets that.
As far as the acting goes, everyone is quite good, but Hugh Bonneville is a standout as the very dry, very funny patriarch of the family. Bonneville is intensely likable onscreen, and he gives it his all in Paddington. His comedic delivery is sharp, and he manages to elevate even the simplest of lines to importance.
Nicole Kidman as a villainous taxidermist is the weakest element in the film – though it should be noted that even she is pretty great. The fault lies more with her one-note character than it does with Kidman’s entertaining performance.
The Looming Britishness: One of Paddington’s greatest charms is the delightfully British way that the film handles its subject: a talking bear who walks on two feet at all times, tips his hat politely to those he passes on the street, and grins and chuckles, and no one is surprised. This deadpan suspension of the belief fuels a movie that never takes itself too seriously and carefully avoids what could be a chaotic and meta mess. Paddington is different and out of place not because he’s a bear, necessarily, but because he’s an immigrant, an outsider. Though there’s no outright social commentary, it’s impossible not to draw a few implied conclusions from the film’s message of acceptance and love for all people, regardless of their origins.
The Style: As a director, King keeps things light and whimsical, even in a technical sense. Stylistic decisions such as long intricate tracking shots, inventive camera angles, and Wes Anderson-style simultaneous views of every room in the Brown household keep the tone set firmly at fun.
Why I Really Loved It: There’s a moment in Paddington when it seems as if the main character, a furry, charismatic little bear from Peru, might be doomed to meet his end. In this moment, the children who filled the packed theater where I saw the movie screamed. They shrieked and yelled and squealed out of terror for this loveable bear. They really, really cared, and that, more than anything else, is why I adored this movie. Paddington deserves to be seen by all ages, so when you’re standing in line trying to decide between American Sniper and The Imitation Game, I recommend you skip both and opt for a bit of Paddington whimsy instead.