Starring Ben Whishaw, Nicole Kidman, Sally Hawkins, Hugh Bonneville, Imelda Staunton, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent
Paddington is an encouraging departure from the regular stupidity seen in family films. Based on the best-selling children’s book and filled with positive, reinforced family values, this star studded 90 minute adventure is fun for young eyes and grown up minds. Visually exciting, not only is the live action capture of the Paddington bear as good as Gollum or Caesar, but the production design sources a lot of concepts from a Wes Anderson production, specifically the doll house. Casting directors succeeded in using almost every minor character from the Harry Potter series in the film, whether it be a cameo (Jim Broadbent), supporting role (Walters) or voice over (Michael Gambon, Imelda Staunton).
After an earthquake strikes at the heart of his home deep in the forest of Darkest Peru, Paddington (Wishaw) makes his way to the busy streets of London. With a note around his fuzzy neck, his uncle’s vintage hat hiding an emergency marmalade sandwich and hope in his heart, the little bear without a home searches for a new family. He is offered shelter by Mrs. Brown (Hawkins), who must convince her husband (Bonneville) and two children that taking in the desperate bear and finding him a home is the right thing to do. There is one person in London looking for the rare talking bear: Millicent (Kidman), the curator of the historic museum wants to stuff the friendly bear and put him on display.
Shouldn’t come as a surprise that a European family film production towers so high above just another Hollywood sequel, remake or comic book films.
Even with all the film’s technical achievements (this film wouldn’t have been possible or plausible 20 years ago), it’s the performances, specifically Oscar nominee Walters, (Billy Elliott, Harry Potter) that steal the show. The film tips its adorable hat to Mission Impossible twice, which has even more meaning considering Kidman is the ex wife of that franchise’s star. Kidman (Moulin Rouge, Cold Mountain) adds greatly to the production as a more creative villain here versus her failed turn in The Golden Compass franchise. Walters’s limited screen time as the Brown’s extended family member is a constant hoot every time she is on screen. Oscar nominee Hawkins (Happy Go Lucky, Blue Jasmine) is also perfectly cast and charming as the mother with the big heart.
It isn’t difficult for Paddington to rise above other live action family films due to their standards being so low (i.e. Night at the Museum 3, Annie), but this film strives for genuine comedy, clever writing and never bashes the viewer with unnecessary or unearned sentimentality. The plot is well paced and swift, taking into consideration the attention span of the core demographic. The art and set decoration really provide a feast for the above average moviegoer. Positive family values, universal acceptance, and individuality are highly stressed throughout the film. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that a European family film production towers so high above just another Hollywood sequel, remake or comic book film that has unfortunately replaced many of the opportunities for younger audiences to learn values on the big screen.
Visually creative and entertaining for both young eyes and grown up minds.