Movie Review - Paddington (2015)

This is the best Wes Anderson movie that Wes Anderson never directed. It's not as full-on Anderson style as The Grand Budapest Hotel, but at times I felt like I was watching Moonrise Kingdom, but this film co-written and directed by Paul King has way more heart and is way more sentimental. It's very cutesy and adorable, yet its warmth and spirit are so endearing. Its humor is juvenile but not in a way that it's simply saying or doing disgusting or inappropriate things. Its humor is more slapstick. There's toilet humor but it's not the obvious poop jokes. There's a fart joke, but it's subtle and clever.

In the vein of Seth MacFarlane's Ted or Rise of the Planet of the Apes, this movie has an animated character fully realized through life-like computer-generated-imagery completely interacting in a total live-action scenario. It's an adaptation of the popular children's books by Michael Bond. It focuses on a tiny, talking bear from Peru that comes to live with a family of four in London, England. Ben Whishaw (Cloud Atlas and Skyfall) voices the bear who is named after the railway station where he's found, and that's Paddington station.

Paddington is a version or could be akin to Winnie the Pooh. Both are sweet and loving, courteous and compassionate. Both have a love for sticky treats. Winnie the Pooh loves honey, whereas Paddington loves marmalade. Winnie the Pooh deals with friendship and developing the bonds and depths of that, whereas Paddington deals with the idea of family and defining it.

The human family at hand is the Brown family, an English group of four. Oscar-nominee Sally Hawkins (Happy-Go-Lucky and Blue Jasmine) stars as Mary Brown, the artistic and empathetic mother who is the first to fall for Paddington and is the one with the most faith in the bear. Hugh Bonneville (Iris and Downton Abbey) plays Henry Brown, the overly protective father and reformed bad boy. Madeleine Harris plays Judy Brown, the eldest child and cynical or highly millennial daughter. Samuel Joslin (The Impossible) plays Jonathan Brown, the only other child and precocious son. There are typical dynamics and obvious dynamics, but all the actors handle it so well and better than a lot of recent family films.

Oscar-winner Nicole Kidman (The Hours and Moulin Rouge!) co-stars as Millicent, a curator at the National History Museum who is also secretly a taxidermist. She's the villain and overly so. She's over-the-top and ridiculously evil, yet she's fun to watch. She's absolutely fun. Kidman doesn't do a lot of comedies, nor does she play a lot of villains. The last was the failed The Golden Compass (2007), which I rather enjoyed, but she is good at playing the comedic and villainous beats here.

Director Paul King has peppered the film with great visual gags. There are plenty, possibly one in every scene. One gag is similar to one in Birdman where every now and then Paddington passes by a Calypso band that plays traditional music. Beyond that, the film has a treasure trove of supporting characters, including Oscar-nominee Julie Walters (Billy Elliot and Educating Rita) who plays Mrs. Bird, Oscar-winner Peter Capaldi (In the Loop and Doctor Who), Oscar-winner Jim Broadbent (Iris and Moulin Rouge! and Topsy-Turvy) and Matt Lucas (Little Britain and Shaun of the Dead) who plays a silly cab driver.

Five Stars out of Five.
Rated PG for mild action and rude humor.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 35 mins.


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