Wednesday, February 11, 2015

"Paddington" Review by Jim Herling

Star of more than twenty beloved children’s novels and multiple animated TV shows, the impeccably polite Paddington Bear (whose real name is an adorable roar unpronounceable by the human tongue) finally makes the leap from his home in Darkest Peru to the big screen in all his hapless glory. And his cinematic debut, written by Paul King, who also directed, and Hamish McColl (based, of course, on the stories written by Michael Bond) felt just like a classic Paddington story.

Which means that it’s cute and fun and fluffy but there isn’t a whole lot of meat to it.

Which doesn’t necessarily make it a bad movie at all. The movie, which is fairly beautifully animated when it comes to the CGI used on Paddington (voiced by Ben Whishaw, who is pretty perfect at capturing Paddington’s tone) and his bear family, Aunt Lucy and Uncle Pastuzo (Imelda Staunton and Michael Gambon. Yes, it’s a Harry Potter reunion all over this movie, as you’ll soon see), tells the tale of how Paddington is forced by an earthquake to leave Darkest Peru and travel to a land an explorer once told his aunt and uncle about, a land known as… London. When he arrives, he is taken in by the Brown family: father Henry (Hugh Bonneville, the first of two Doctor Who connections, because what movie with a British cast wouldn’t be complete without both Hogwarts and the Doctor), mother Mary (Sally Hawkins), and kids Judy (Madeleine Harris) and Jonathan (Samuel Joslin), all of whom are reluctant about taking in a bear except for Mary. Eventually Paddington wins them all over with his manners and charm, despite the fact that he is a hysterical hurricane of accidents and disasters. He even wins over the Browns’ housekeeper, Mrs. Bird (Julie Walters). The human cast is talented and capable, and their emotions and reactions are believable, especially when it comes to the main cast. In terms of support, Jim Broadbent (another Harry Potter connection) overdoes it a bit as Mr. Gruper, a foreign antiques dealer who helps Paddington discover where his hat came from in hopes it’ll let him find the explorer his aunt and uncle knew. Instead, it leads him to Nicole Kidman’s Millicent, an evil zoologist who wants to stuff poor Paddington. The supporting cast is rounded out by Peter Capaldi as the Browns’ neighbor Mr. Curry, who, in the great tradition of TV neighbors everywhere, is suspicious of the secrets and mischief in the house next door.

Paddington himself is a wonderful character, beautifully rendered and fully realized. The cast is good, and the movie itself is cute and funny. The problem is that the plot was fairly forgettable, and it was easy to predict. Of course, it’s a kids’ movie, so that’s no surprise. I give it 3.5 stars out of 5, just because I’d hate to have Paddington turn his stare of disapproval on me.

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