The TV commercials for the new Paddington movie do not do the movie any justice. The images of the little bear riding a bathtub down the stairs and the bewildered Mr. Brown look like the film Beethoven that replaces a bear for a St. Bernard. It’s not. In fact, most of the scenes in the TV trailer take place in the first few minutes of the film and there is so much more to see.
What director Paul King does with the story is pretty magical. Yes, there is some slapstick that the kids will love, but those scenes are a lot more elaborate than someone slipping on a banana peel. Each is caused by a real mishap in the story – not something that was just tacked on to be cute. What makes this film shine, above and beyond many other children’s fair, is that it is well rounded for all audiences. There is plenty of dry humor for adults too. In addition, King chooses some truly unique ways to move the story along that gives the film its charming tone. There is no bathroom humor – except for the funny scenes that actually takes place in the bathroom!
The movie has strong messages about family, marriage and taking care of people – or bears – less fortunate than you. In this case, the Brown family unit is broken. Not terribly broken – they are similar to many of our own families – but still broken. Mr. Brown (Hugh Bonneville) is a worrywart who is constantly spewing random and off-based statistics of injuries that can happen to a person doing the most menial things. His son, Jonathan (Samuel Joslin) wants adventure in his life so bad, but it’s never going to happen while dad is around. Mrs. Brown (Sally Hawkins) is a children’s book writer and illustrator. She is very “artsy” which annoys her daughter, Judy (Madeleine Harris). Living with the family is Mrs. Bird (Julie Walters) who might be a grandmother, but it isn’t clear.
The story begins with old news real showing an explorer traveling to darkest Peru who runs into a small group of bears who would rather communicate with the man rather than eat him. We soon learn that two of the bears are the aunt and uncle of Paddington (his English name) and the story is set in modern times (though the film as a timeless look to hit). After a unfortunate event, the little bear is stowed away on a cargo ship and makes his way to a London train station with a tag around his neck that states, “Please look after this bear. Thank you.” Paddington is disappointed to find that England is not as friendly and as welcoming as he imagines. However, he meets the Browns in Paddington Station (where the bear get’s his English name) and goes home with them, but only for one night. Mrs. Brown is sure that they can find the explorer who had visited the bear’s home so many years earlier.
Meanwhile, an evil taxidermist (Nicole Kidman) fancies having a little talking bear herself and sets out to trap him. As to be expected, the Brown family rallies together to save their new furry friend causing each to understand and appreciate each other better.
If you have never read a Paddington book, like I hadn’t, you might be surprised by how much you like this movie. The screening that I attended had adults that seemingly liked the film better than the children. There is nothing too scary for the little ones to be afraid of. Kidman makes a good villain similar to Cruela DeVil – a nasty woman but not too scary. The film is a hit in England and now we know why.