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The Weinstein Company // PG // January 16, 2015
List Price: Unknown [Buy now and save at Fandango]

Review by Jeff Nelson | posted January 10, 2015 | E-mail the Author

Most family films have certainly achieved a new direction in tone over the past few years. Some have become considerably darker in both their storytelling and atmosphere, while others could quite possibly lower an entire family's IQ with its absurdly dumb humor. There's a time and place for both of these types of family features, but few of them have the ability to return adults to their childhood, even if only for 90-something minutes. Paddington achieved just that for me. I didn't know much about this lovable bear before seeing the film, but it didn't take long for the film to completely immerse me in its delightful sense of humor and personality. If you take the family out for only one film this season, this should be it.

When a human explorer visits Darkest Peru, he comes across a group of unusually intelligent bears. He begins teaching them human customs. When a tragedy occurs, they send their youngest to London with a tag around his neck that reads "Please Look After This Bear." A family of diverse personalities befriends the talking bear at a train station, and ultimately decide to offer him a home until he's able to find a permanent residence elsewhere. However, when the director of taxidermy (Nicole Kidman) hears about this miraculous bear, she has other plans for him.

Writer/director Paul King and writer Hamish McColl manage to do so much more with Paddington than most would expect. They successfully overlap several different tones that could easily clash with one another, but they manage to make a harmonious relationship between them. It has its share of darker material, but it still feels rather light and airy throughout its running time. It's extremely rare to find a film that is capable of being so sweet without giving us a stomachache, but this one does just that. The screenplay works with the themes of kindness that lives within us all, and not being afraid to show oneself to the world. Paddington knows very little about human society, but we are actually the ones who could stand to learn a thing or two from this bear. There are several invaluable lessons that will surely hit a home run for parents taking their kids to the cinema, but it also offers some messages for the older viewers. There's no way to better explain it tham to say that Paddington is universal. It's guaranteed to be enjoyed by the whole family.

A large amount of the film is spent as this small bear is introduced to the large scale of London, and its customs. This is where the majority of the picture's humor comes into play. While there's some comedy to be found throughout the dialogue, the majority of it comes in the form of physical humor. However, unlike other family flicks, Paddington is hilarious. Watching this small bear attempt to "clean up" using the facilities is rather funny, and it manages to remain consistent throughout the remainder of its running time. Once it introduces the taxidermist named Millicent, this family's primary threat is created. However, as the story continues to switch between Paddington's temporary family and this determined taxidermist, it progressively feels more ridiculous. While this could thwart the film's flow for some, I found it to be so silly, that it makes for its own self-aware humor. It contrasts the sweetness of Paddington's journey rather well, as it displays the evil that can also be found within some humans, opposed to the kindness that is witnessed elsewhere. Paddington hits all of the expected plot beats, but this isn't a story that relies on twists and turns. It's about the very human journey that lives in this feature.

This could have easily been pitched as an animated film, but it works extremely well in live-action. This story is just as much a story about the Brown family as it is about the young bear. Mrs. Brown (Sally Hawkins) is the individual to open their house to the stranger, while Mr. Brown (Hugh Bonneville) and their children disapprove of this decision. Judy (Madeleine Harris) and Jonathan (Samuel Joslin) are at that age where they're already embarrassed by their parents. Mrs. Brown is an artsy individual who finds going into the sewers to be an exciting experience, while Mr. Brown is an overly-protective father, who never allows his children to enjoy being their age. This clash of personalities gives the film another dimension of humor and drama that works incredibly well. This especially holds true about Mr. Brown, as he constantly stops his children from fun activities by giving the percentage of them being injured via an accident. When all of these individuals are put in the same room as the well-intentioned Paddington, laughs are guaranteed.
,br> It comes without a doubt that Ben Whishaw's voice-over for Paddington is spot-on, but the real fun comes from the live-action performances. Sally Hawkins is remarkably enjoyable as Mrs. Brown. She's sympathetic, energetic, and funny. Hugh Bonneville is great as Mr. Brown. He's the anchor that the film needed, as the character shifts feel incredibly natural. when they could have easily come across as being quite jarring. Madeleine Harris and Samuel Joslin deliver fine performances as Judy and Jonathan Brown, respectively. Nicole Kidman is clearly having an absolute blast playing Millicent. She delivers a sense of fun energy that hasn't been seen from her in quite some time. Paddington features a well-rounded cast with a lively tone.

Blending a main character created from CG into a live-action world can be a daunting task, but it works incredibly well in Paddington. This is impressive animation that is so wonderfully detailed. This adorable bear has eyes that feel so real. This film sports an incredibly vibrant sense of cinematography that highlights the primary motif of Paddington's red hat. In fact, red appears quite frequently in the color palette and the costume design. However, one of the more inventive visual tricks to be found here is how the small scale of toys is used in order to provide further exposition without actually leaving the scene. One use of this is a dollhouse to introduce each member of the family in their individual spaces, and another is the use of a train set. This is a film that employs a playful visual design that works incredibly well.

Paddington is a triumph as both an animated film as well as a family feature. The digital aspects and the live-action are so perfectly blended, that it feels like a totally immersive atmosphere. The characters are remarkably relatable and likable, that we can't help but want to follow them along this tremendous journey. The screenplay successfully captures the sweetness, the humor, and the darker nature in a swift motion, where none of them even remotely clash. Whether you're a kid, a teenager, or an adult, the messages are invaluable, and the laughs are genuine. If you take the family to one film this season, let it be this one. It's a great way to kick off 2015. Paddington will make a splash for the whole family. Highly recommended!



Highly Recommended

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