Paddington (The Weinstein Company/Dimension, PG)

paddington sqWe come to learn that all bears’ names sound like something between a burp and a roar, which makes sense, I suppose.

 

paddington 500 

After his financial success in bringing another classic British book series to the big screen (Harry Potter), here we have producer David Heyman’s attempt to get at more classic British children’s literature money. Paddington, directed by Paul King (The Mighty Boosh), is about the polite young bear from Dark Peru who finds himself seeking shelter in London. Paddington, done in CGI and voiced by Ben Whishaw, is taken pity on by a family at a train station, and thus he finds his first, presumably temporary, home. This family consists of patriarch Mr. Brown (Hugh Bonneville), matriarch Mrs. Brown (Sally Hawkins), and their two kids, Judy (Madeleine Harris) and Jonathan (Samuel Joslin).

Paddington is accident-prone, as one would expect of a sweet little bear living with an upright British family. This, of course, causes some friction with the Browns, especially Mr. (as opposed to the more tolerant Mrs.), but also brings the attention of the neighbors, most notably Mr. Curry (Peter Capaldi, looking and acting much more like Wallace of Wallace and Gromit than Malcolm Tucker). As a result, Paddington’s presence in this quaint English home comes to the attention of villain Millicent (Nicole Kidman), who is hoping to get Paddington to a taxidermist at the earliest possibility.

Paddington on the surface sounds like it would be the bane of adults, especially stereotypically male adults: a cute CGI bear in a live-action world who gets into lots of pratfalls? But in practice, Paddington, while not perfect, is a mostly charming and fun film, so any parents dragged by their children will likely be pleasantly surprised. The opening scene, set in the Peruvian jungle, is interesting enough, but the film really makes clear that it might just work around the time Paddington gets to meeting the Browns, and has to tackle simple tasks like telling them his name. Despite Paddington’s proper English speech and vocabulary, his given name is something along the lines of “Eeeroyorrr.” After some confusion from Mr. Brown, we come to learn that all bears’ names sound like something between a burp and a roar, which makes sense, I suppose.

I’m a little troubled by the fact that the Paddington books aren’t as popular in the American market as they are on the British market, and the film may suffer here somewhat as a result. Couple this with the facts that (a) few adults are going to think they want to see this, and (b) the movie is being released just after Christmas break, when kids and parents don’t have as much free time. All the same, I’m happy that this pleasant little movie is getting released theatrically in the first place, and I hope that it comes to find its audience. | Pete Timmermann

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