“Mrs. Brown says that in London everyone is different, and that means anyone can fit in. I think she must be right – because although I don’t look like anyone else, I really do feel at home. I’ll never be like other people, but that’s alright, because I’m a bear. A bear called Paddington.”
Ah, Paddington. Yet another animation/live-action hybrid that I never thought I would really like… But I totally did! Paddington hits all the right notes to be enjoyable for both children and adults. It has some quirky humor mixed with on-the-nose jokes, a cute animal that is very likable, it doesn’t take itself too seriously, and by the end you’re really just sucked in to its little world so long as you allow it.
Paddington starts with a London geographer in ‘the darkest Peru’, where he meets Lucy and Pastuzo (the titular bear’s aunt and uncle), as well as the cub Paddington. The explorer finds that they’re a very intelligent and rare species of bear and begins teaching them English and some London customs before leaving. Years later, an earthquake strikes, destroying the bear’s home, forcing Paddington to travel to London to find a new home and his old friend. Upon arriving, he discovers that London is nothing like the records he’s listened to. No one is polite, no one cares to pay him any attention, and he begins to give up hope of finding somewhere to call home. That is until the Browns pass by and decide to aid him. Mary Brown (Sally Hawkins) is a free spirit and illustrator, open and willing to help Paddington as much as she can, while her husband Henry (Hugh Bonneville) is very much the opposite, working as a risk analyst and worried that having Paddington in the home will only bring trouble. They also have a son, Jonathan, and daughter, Judy, who have differing opinions on the bear. Throughout the film, the family hunts for the identity and location of the mysterious geographer Paddington had known so long ago, dodge the evil museum taxidermist Millicent Clyde (Nicole Kidman), and find a loving home for their visitor.
I’ll start off by saying that like many other animated movies, you do have to let yourself be taken to another world. The kind of world where people are slightly shocked a bear can talk, but more so think that he might be lying or a pickpocket. It’s also not incredibly strange or disturbing to have kooky antics like the bathroom floor-to-ceiling flooding or to see a bear floating around via umbrella. It’s not meant to be questioned, and truth be told if you’re the kind of person who generally doesn’t like cartoon logic, this isn’t your cup of tea. It’s a children’s movie meant for parents to chuckle every so often as well. I was watching this movie at work and snorted on a couple parts trying not to laugh too loudly because I wasn’t expecting certain jokes. So Paddington has the humor, what else has it got hidden under there? Well its plot is predictable and easy going, you won’t find out Paddington was a genetically-altered mutant bear or anything like that and I doubt I have to tell you how the film ends, but the fact that you don’t really have to keep up with it will appeal to some. The animation holds up fairly well in my eyes compared to the disaster it could have been. Hair and fur don’t always look great even with the technology available today, but Paddington has goopy marmalade (his favorite food) on him, wet fur, poofy fur, dirty fur, all kinds of fur and it all looks fine for the movie. I’m not saying you’re going to believe it’s actually a real bear at any point, but with the movie already asking you to disregard a lot of things, it works.
I know you’re probably thinking to yourself, “Wow, he is really amping this movie up and hasn’t exactly said anything bad about it,” and that’s true. I don’t have anything truly terrible to say about it. Overall it is a cute and funny movie. Is it good? Of course! Is it great? Eh. The thing with Paddington is that it does mostly everything good, but that’s it. I couldn’t pick out one thing that truly stood out from the comedy, plot, animation, characters, etc. Everything is just good not great, and isn’t that what most children are fine with? Children are clearly what Paddington was aimed at and they’ll love its good clean fun and humor while their parents can laugh along with them a little bit. Next time you have a family night, or even if you and your special someone just enjoy cute animated films, grab some marmalade sandwiches and enjoy an hour and a half with Paddington.