In a movie year full of altruistic apes, snarky raccoons and dragons that rise from the sea, “Paddington’s” bear brings it and then some. A magical delight from beginning to end, “Paddington” is for the child in all of us. Directed by Paul King and written by King and Hamish McColl, based on Michael Bond’s character, Paddington Bear, this is the tale of how Paddington came to be.
The story begins in darkest Peru where Paddington’s aunt and uncle encounter the English explorer, Montgomery Clyde (Tim Downie). Clyde is enchanted by the bears and teaches them to read, write and speak English. Before going back to England, he tells them that they will always be welcome in London and leaves his hat behind as a remembrance. Many years later, the nephew of the aunt and uncle (who will eventually be known as Paddington) leaves Peru under sad circumstances. A stowaway on a ship setting sail for London, the bear has nothing more than a suitcase full of marmalade and a marmalade sandwich tucked under his hat, just as the explorer had taught the bears to do…just in case. He arrives in rainy London, expecting someone…anyone to give him shelter and welcome him into their family. While no one in London seems surprised by a talking, well-mannered bear, the city is not as friendly as he expects. It isn’t until he meets the Brown family, who offer him temporary shelter, that his fortune changes for the better. Mrs. Brown (Sally Hawkins) and young son, Jonathan (Samuel Joslin), take an immediate shine to him…Mr. Brown (Hugh Bonneville) and older daughter, Judy (Madeleine Harris), not so much. The family decides to call him Paddington, named for the station in which they found him, and so Paddington begins to settle in, hoping to find either the explorer or the explorer’s family to eventually “adopt” him. However, finding a permanent home for Paddington is not his only problem. Unbeknownst to the Brown family and Paddington, a villainous taxidermist (Nicole Kidman) has been made aware of Paddington and is out to find him and provide him with a different kind of permanency.
“Paddington” is so much fun on a variety of levels. The scenes in the Browns’ bathroom are absolutely hysterical, as the bear adjusts to a life with humans in a human house. His reactions and the family’s reaction to him are priceless. It all feels so very real. Even the scenes with the family in the kitchen seem quite genuine and are extremely funny.
“Paddington” boast a top-notch cast. Hugh Bonneville and Sally Hawkins are just wonderful as Mr. and Mrs. Brown. Bonneville is especially good and has some terrifically funny scenes. It’s hard to find someone who can express disgust and disdain as elegantly as this actor can. Julie Walters is great as the family housekeeper, Mrs. Bird, and her interaction with everyone else in the cast is fun to watch. Nicole Kidman makes for a great villain. She’s absolutely terrific in her single-minded meanness and such are her shoes that they get their own special credit (Nina Shoes, for those of you who might be interested). It’s rare that we see her do anything with a comic bent and she really shines in the part. Imelda Staunton and Michael Gambon as the voices of Paddington’s aunt and uncle are spot on. Finally,there is Paddington, himself. Voiced by Ben Whishaw, he is sheer perfection. He makes Paddington so loveable without being treacly…he is that great.
“Paddington” is full of real pigeons and monkeys as noted by their respective wranglers in the film’s credits. You can tell me that Paddington is not real, but I refuse to believe it. Everything about him feels genuine. You just want to reach out and touch him…or hug him. I don’t want the magic spoiled by knowing how this was done. If this really is special effects, then it’s the most amazing work I’ve seen in a long time. All I know is that “Paddington” seemed very real to me and I just fell in love completely.
4 nuggets out of 4