“Paddington” is a live action family adventure that could have gone horribly wrong. How could I make this presumption? That presumption is from the sad line of movie history of taking beloved cartoon animals and translating them to a live action CGI environment. Just take a look at such classics as “Scooby-Doo”, “Garfield”, “Marmaduke”, and “The Smurfs” (just to name a few). Every single one of these films were all disasters. Never could someone seem to figure out how to make a proper transition for cartoon characters into the live action contemporary world. “Paddington” though has no such problem and seems to have finally figured out the proper way was to make such an endeavor. “Paddington” is both charming and whimsical; has plenty of moments of slapstick humor but never once relies on it, while also bringing such heart and warmth to the title character. I may not have loved the ending but the rest of film was entertaining and is perfect for all families.
A young bear travels from a far away location to get to London. This young bear is in search of a new home from an explorer that traveled to his land and befriended his parents years before he was born. While searching for this explorer he stays with a family of four, where mayhem ensues as Paddington learns how to fit into the new world he is inhabiting.
Right off the bat I would like to establish (to the courts) that I did not grow up reading the “Paddington” books. I know a large majority of the audience more than likely had. But, I was not one of them so I can’t comment on how well they did adapting the story. (I grew up reading and watching a different bear named “Winnie the Pooh”). Now that we have that out of the way let’s get on with it.
One of the welcomed aspects of the movie is the filmmakers make no attempt to discuss how or why the bears can talk. It’s just a simple fact that they can, and in this reality no one bats an eye when a talking bear comes to London. The characters instead merely accept that the bear can talk and is wearing a red hat. In this sense, the movie almost feels like a fairy tale. No there isn’t a big long explanation like, “through a series of genetic crossing and radiation due to the sun and exposé to mankind, the bears have evolved to learned how communicate after their vocal chords become more sophisticated allowing….” nope none of that, why does he talk? Simple, because he does. I’m not sure why but in an era of film where so many movies try to ground things in reality and go through a scientific explanation as to why things are the way they are, it’s refreshing to have a movie say, it is this way because it is this way; like a parent saying to a child, “because I said so”.
The movie itself is so delightful. There are plenty of slapstick moments in the film but that’s not where the heart and humor of the film stems from. The wordplay between many of the character will definitely have you chuckling. The humor is unapologetically British humor, so if you don’t find that brand of humor appealing then perhaps you more than likely won’t find this funny at all. The movie obviously isn’t aiming to give you gut busting moments of hilarity but instead gives us enough quick firing puns and jokes that all land their mark. Perhaps there aren’t any homeruns here but because of all the base hits and doubles this movie is able to achieve, they easily score more than enough runs to win the game (this movie may be British but that’s a Baseball analogy not a Cricket one)
The film is full of fun creativity as well. Director Paul King and the rest of the production team are able to bring such a unique feel to the picture. Using the miniatures to tell little side stories, fun cut away gags, over stylized moments; at points this sort of reminded me of a Wes Anderson production. What Paul King understands (what other adaptations of cartoon animals like “Yogi Bear” don’t) is you don’t need to dumb down your film to juvenile levels because you’re looking to make a quick buck and the children will enjoy it. “Paddington” gives plenty of moments for the kids but it never comes at the expense of the film’s smartness and intelligence.
I think my own personal issue with the film is the ending. The final act does feel a bit out of place at times with its mild action moments and pop culture references to “Mission Impossible”. It’s not a bad segment in the film because the filmmakers were able to keep the action maintained to proper levels but in some ways it does feel much weaker than the rest of the film.
Regardless of the final act I did have a good time with this feature. “Paddington” is a very fun and enjoyable adventure, with many laugh and creative moments along the way. No it’s not the greatest movie ever made but this is perfect entertainment for kids and their families of all ages.