Movie Review
Paddington poster
By Craig Younkin     Published January 18, 2015
US Release: January 16, 2015

Directed by: Paul King

PG for mild action and rude humor
Running Time: 95 minutes
Domestic Box Office: $75,821,000
It’s harmless, kinda funny, and very charming.
Who’d of thunk that walking, talking bears would be more civilized and less murderous than walking, talking apes? It’s just one of the questions that come up during “Paddington," a movie you kinda half-watch while you’re delighted that your kids have found something to distract themselves from karaoke-ing “Let it Go” from Frozen for the thousandth time. Basically it’s harmless, kinda funny, and very charming.

The title character is a descendant of a line of “special bears” living in a Peruvian forest, taught to talk and have a love of marmalade by a London explorer on safari. He leaves, but says that if any of the bears ever want to visit him in London, they can expect a warm welcome. Many years later when their tree-house style homes are destroyed (we expect some moralizing on deforestation but it never comes), the title character is sent away by boat to London to try and find a new one, where he meets the Brown family at Paddington station.

No one in the bustling city seems particularly baffled to see a walking, talking bear nor does anyone question it when the title character says his aunt (voiced by Imelda Staunton) and Uncle (voiced by Michael Gambon) have regular names while he has a bear name sounding something like a roar and a belch. What’s it matter if it could get a quick laugh out of the kids. It’s more funny than the human name he’s given, Paddington (voiced by Ben Whishaw in a very gentle, genial way that makes it hard to see how originally cast Colin Firth could have possibly done the same).

The Brown family is one like many others. Mr. Brown (Downton Abbey’s Hugh Bonneville, getting the best jokes and telling them with stodgy perfection) is an overprotective risk assessor whose job and worry for his children have turned him dull. His wife (Sally Hawkins) is a much more nurturing sort who convinces him to take Paddington in, despite Mr. Brown’s continued reluctance. And the kids (Samuel Joslin, Madeleine Harris) are in the pre-teen stages where parents hanging around is embarrassing but having a bear around is kinda cool.

Nicole Kidman shows up here as a “Cruella DeVille” style villain after Paddington. That’s about it for plot. Expect quite a bit of physical comedy (a scene where Paddington creates havoc in the Brown’s bathroom is something right out of Mr. Bean), some that just feels lazy (Paddington gets wrapped up in tape), some gross stuff for the kids, and some cheesy gags like a GPS telling a driver to bare left and then…hey, there’s Paddington. It’s pretty sanitized comedy, thankfully stripped of any pop culture jokes or dumbed down characters.

And it’s a charmer too. In one scene a character, played by James Broadbent, eloquently says that the body reaches the home quick, but “the heart takes a little longer.” It’s a beautiful sentiment that’s easy to understand and describes the driving soul behind pretty much all of “Paddington." It might be aimed more toward kids, but it has universal themes, and it earns its lovability too much to judge it too harshly for its flaws.
Craig's Grade: B-
Craig's Overall Grading: 340 graded movies
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