Starring: Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Nicole Kidman, Julie Walters
Featuring the Voice Talents of: Imelda Staunton, Michael Gambon, Ben Whishaw
Based on the Paddington Bear character by: Michael Bond
Screen story by: Hamish McColl and Paul King
Written for the screen and directed by: Paul King
Metacritic Rating: 77
IMDb Rating: 7.3
Rated PG for mild action and rude humor
Films that are family films but incorporate real life humans with CGI characters are, to say the least, spotty. With every Babe and Stuart Little (and I’m pushing it with that one), there’s a plethora of Garfield, The Smurfs and Alvin and the Chipmunk movies that will make you think otherwise of giving them a shot. And I don’t care what you think, George of the Jungle is still a hilarious movie.
Yet, here I am, plunking down money to see another one of these types of movies. And I came away from it utterly charmed.
Paddington (voice of Whishaw) is a Peruvian bear who needs to find a home in London. While he’s searching for an explorer who helped teach his family how to speak English, he stays with the Brown family (parents played by Bonneville and Hawkins). Meanwhile, a maniacal taxidermist (Kidman) wants to put Paddington into her collection of stuffed animals.
Paddington is one of the best family films since Babe and Babe: Pig in the City. The movie is not only a charming film for families, it’s a well shot, very well made film that has fantastic cinematography and a witty and funny screenplay. Paddington is not just a great family movie: it’s a great movie, period.
The most obvious thing to talk about is the actual main character: Paddington. Whenever CGI characters are implemented into a story (or worse, are the main attraction), there seems to be a disconnect in some movies that doesn’t make them feel organic in the slightest with the rest of the film.
Paddington uses of CGI, mainly on the bear, is subtle but fits very well with the fit and mood of the film. The big eyes with the cute little mouth only add to the cuteness of the main character and Ben Whishaw’s voice is perfect for the adorably polite and posh Paddington.
It’s so important that the actual main character is so likable, because the film relies on this character to present the feel of the film. This is something a lot of these family films just seem to get wrong time and time again: there isn’t any annoying caricaturization to give the character identity or really lame and annoying pop songs that were just pointlessly implemented into the movie. Or just plainly pandering to what kids like to make it a glorified advertisement for toys and video games.
The character Paddington is so lovable and full of character that even if the rest was not as good, watching the character itself is well worth the price of watching the movie. Few movies can write characters so purely charming and likable (without it being played by an actor who can play in the charm); for this character to be this lovable and be created by computer is something special.
Yet, the outside trappings of the film is also solid, especially the direction and cinematography. The way the film is shot, from the jungle landscapes to London or to the houses and buildings themselves, gives the film a very distinct look and feel. The camera work especially is well done: when they can make a house or a museum look larger than life and full of wonder and whimsy, the ideas and feel of the movie is so well realized it’s really a wonder to enjoy.
The closest that this movie can be described if the film was created by Wes Anderson, if he was forced to use actual well made sets and great graphics. The dry tone and cheeky humor, interlaced with some adult like jokes and overtones, gives the movie a feel that will go over the heads of most kids that adults will surely enjoy.
On top of that, the performances by the actual actors are also well done. Hugh Bonneville plays an archetypal tightwad with some extra quirk in him, which is well done by him. Julie Walters steals scenes in the movie as the house caretaker, while Nicole Kidman plays a funny over the top villain.
The best performance, surprisingly, is Sally Hawkins. Her effervescent smile and her cheery, loving performance is one that is deserving of more attention. It’s surprising this is the same woman from Blue Jasmine, she literally plays a whole different character that is so lovable and enjoyable.
It’s hard to find fault in the movie, but this film is very much meant to be a broad British comedy with some other charms thrown in and it all doesn’t work. There are certain scenes that kind of fall flat, whether it tries too hard or was constrained by the need to be clean is debatable.
Paddington is an effective, charming and wonderful film that is really fit for all families, but there’s a lot in this film that is enjoyable for adults. The character of Paddington is so well done and a treat to watch that it makes the film watchable regardless of anything else, but the film is also buoyed by great direction and a great performance by Sally Hawkins.
Families are a must. Film lovers are also a must.
4.5/5 – The character of Paddington is so charming and lovable; great direction; Sally Hawkins with a great performance
The Wiz Says #29