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Five Views: Paddington

February 2, 2015

Paddington Poster

Paddington – An eOne Films Release

Release Date: January 16th, 2015
Rated G for mild action and rude humour
Running Time: 95 minutes

Paul King (director)

Paul King (writer)

Based on the books by Michael Bond

Ben Whishaw as Paddington (voice)
Hugh Bonneville as Henry Brown
Sally Hawkins as Mary Brown
Madeleine Harris as Judy Brown
Samuel Joslin as Jonathan Brown
Julie Walters as Mrs. Bird
Nicole Kidman as Millicent
Peter Capaldi as Mr. Curry
Jim Broadbent as Mr. Gruber
Tim Downie as Montgomery Clyde
Imelda Staunton as Aunt Lucy (voice)
Michael Gambon as Uncle Pastuzo (voice)


Paddington (voice of Ben Whishaw) in Paddington.

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Paddington Review By John Corrado

★★★★ (out of 4)

Just like how the title bear arrives as an unexpected but welcome surprise, the first great film of 2015 has come in the unlikely form of Paddington, a triumph of both storytelling and production design, that does justice to Michael Bond’s classic series of books.  Pardon the pun, but this is the sort of movie that makes the cold month of January more bearable, setting the bar very high for the rest of the year.

As a lifelong fan of the marmalade loving bear, I admit to being skeptical when I first saw the trailers for this big screen reimagining, but these fears have thankfully gone unwarranted.  Director Paul King has delivered a film so lovingly crafted and stuffed with brilliant detail, that it demands multiple viewings and already feels like a perennial favourite.

The film begins in the jungles of Darkest Peru, when his elderly Aunt Lucy (Imelda Staunton) is no longer able to care for him, and Paddington (Ben Whishaw) is sent to live in London.  The impeccably mannered young bear is found at the train station by Mr. and Mrs. Brown (Hugh Bonneville and Sally Hawkins), and their two kids Jonathan (Samuel Joslin) and Judy (Madeline Harris), who reluctantly bring him into their home.  But adapting to his new life proves hard for Paddington, especially with evil taxidermist Millicent (Nicole Kidman) trying to kidnap him for her collection at the museum.

With a beautifully captured sense of heightened realism that stylistically recalls both Wes Anderson and Jean-Pierre Jeunet, every frame of Paddington is gorgeously designed and filled with clever details.  This is a visual treat from beginning to end, and the animation and special effects that bring Paddington to life are simply breathtaking, allowing him to seamlessly interact with the live action surroundings and uniformly excellent cast of human actors.  The close ups of his incredibly expressive eyes are enough to steal even the coldest hearts.

The film has undertones of everything from Elf to The Great Muppet Caper, and Home Alone and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, and even inspired callbacks to the first and fourth Mission: Impossible films.  The fact that Paddington is able to effortlessly mix all of these styles and tones together into one of the most purely delightful films in recent memory, is an achievement that should be celebrated.  This is the rare breed of family film that treats its audience with intelligence and respect, and the exceptionally well written screenplay boasts a distinctly British sense of style and sophistication.

It’s amazing how much is packed into Paddington, never wasting a second of the 95 minute running time.  Ben Whishaw’s voice work is quite charming, and fits the character perfectly.  This is a film that manages to be incredibly clever and entertaining, but also deeply heartfelt and surprisingly touching, a delight for the senses and also the soul.  An outstanding film on every level.

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Paddington Review by Erin Corrado

★★★★ (out of 4)

Based on the classic stories, Paddington really captures the spirit of the originals and brings to screen a charming film for all.

When the film opens, we are introduced to two bears in Darkest Peru who come across an explorer from England.  He learns their ways and he theirs, and when he leaves he gives them an open invitation to come to London some day – where they will always be welcome.  Flash-forward and we meet the bear couple again, now taking care of their nephew Paddington (Ben Whishaw).  Young Paddington enjoys life in the jungle, making marmalade with the techniques taught to his aunt and uncle by the explorer.  But when an earthquake strikes and their jungle home is destroyed, Paddington’s aunt sends him off to the ‘explorer’s country’ to try to find a better home.

Upon arrival in modern-day London, Paddington quickly realizes that the country that his aunt and uncle spoke so fondly of has changed and people there are wary of strangers and strange bears.  When Mrs. Brown (Sally Hawkins) decides to give him a place to stay for the night, Paddington finds himself thrust into her family, awkwardly moving between feeling like he is accepted by and burdening them.  The kids Jonathan (Samuel Joslin) and Judy (Madeleine Harris) are polarized on Paddington’s moving in, and Mr. Brown (Hugh Bonneville) is cautious about having a strange bear stay with them, quoting statistics and insisting that they find him some other accommodations.  With their help, Paddington sets off on an adventure to try to find the explorer his aunt and uncle spoke of.

Operating from a beautifully-written script, Paddington draws comparisons to London and its history with the character’s own plight, and ties every detail in from beginning to end.  Even the antagonist of the story, Millicent (Nicole Kidman), is tied in wonderfully and amazingly never feels out of place even with the character’s extremes.

It is the film’s style that is so capturing about Paddington.  Every edit and cutaway, every set and stylistic choice could have been so mismatched, but instead provides perfect pieces to a coherent whole.  There is almost a fantastical quality to the storytelling.  In one particularly beautiful example of this, as Paddington watches a home movie in one scene, he walks all the way up to the screen and through it being instantly transported into the old film.  The cutaways and choices all represent an image or imagining of a character and they are seamless.  Paddington is a film that works so well, seemingly against all odds.

As the film progresses, the way the Brown’s and Paddington come to know and care about each other is believable and touching.  And not for one moment does Paddington seem like a CGI creation in a live-action film.  We believe him as as real as his human co-stars.  The film is perfectly executed and evokes a classic British sensibility with its style and set design.  I must say the soundtrack and score are perfect as well.  Overall this is just a great film.

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Paddington Review By Tony Corrado

★★★★ (out of 4)

Paddington is the latest film about the little bear whose storybooks have been enjoyed by generations of children in Britain and around the world. Beginning in the rain forests of darkest Peru, it shows how the orphaned bear (voiced by Ben Whishaw) ended up on a platform in London’s Paddington Station and was taken in by the eccentric Brown family. The risk averse Henry Brown (Hugh Bonneville) is overruled by his ever curious wife Mary (Sally Hawkins) and their kids come around to accept the bear as well, especially when his life is threatened by Millicent (Nicole Kidman), the ruthless museum taxidermist.

The first theatrical feature for writer/director Paul King, like the Harry Potter series from the same producers, Paddington is in every way exemplary of the best of British film making. The technical production is superb, with CGI bears completely believable as talking bears, not just Teddy bears like Ted. The cast includes small parts for some of Britain’s finest actors, including Imelda Staunton and Michael Gambon voicing Paddington’s bear guardians, Matt Lucas as the London cabbie, Julie Walters as the resourceful live-inn relative, Peter Capaldi as a nosy neighbour, and Jim Broadbent as an antiquarian.

Young children will be delighted, while older viewers can appreciate the British wit and numerous clever references to other films. Without a second wasted on the screen, I can’t imagine a better way to spend 95 minutes at the movies, looking forward to repeated viewings at home.

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Paddington Review By Maureen Corrado

★★★★ (out of 4)

For many years, a quirky bear from “Darkest Peru” has lived on the bookshelves of my home.  Thankfully, director Paul King’s delightful film Paddington does justice to Michael Bond’s amusing book series.

Paddington bear has been believably brought to life through a mix of CGI, animatronics and excellent voice work by Ben Whishaw.  The little bear is first introduced through flashback scenes in Peru, where faux newsreel footage shows British explorer Montgomery Clyde (Tim Downie) discovering a family of talking bears who live in a giant beehive-like home.  The explorer spares their lives and the the bears live happily in their jungle, and making marmalade, until a devastating earthquake hits.

Paddington’s Uncle Pastuzo (Michael Gambon) goes missing, leaving Aunt Lucy (Imelda Staunton) to look after him.  She decides that Paddington would be better off in London, England.  After all, the children during wartime were sent off to safer homes there.  Sending Paddington off with the sign “please look after this bear” around his neck, Aunt Lucy puts her faith in the kindness of strangers.

Wearing his Uncle’s floppy red hat and the sign, Paddington makes his way to London.  Eventually, at Paddington Station, he catches the attention of the kindly Mrs. Mary Brown (Sally Hawkins) who is out with her family, husband Henry Brown (Hugh Bonneville) and their children Judy (Madeline Harris) and Jonathan (Samuel Joslin).  Despite Mr. Brown’s objections, Paddington ends up going home with the Browns.

The scenes at the Brown’s home are amusing, even if the bathroom flooding scene is a little over the top.  Paddington’s mishaps are his attempts at trying to learn the customs and ways of an unfamiliar country, and overall this is a sweet story about a newcomer trying so hard to fit in and find acceptance in his new home.

But Paddington’s journey to finding his place in a new land isn’t all fun and games.  When the Brown’s nosy neighbour Mr. Curry (Peter Capaldi) lets the local taxidermist, evil Millicent (Nicole Kidman), know there’s a unique bear in the house, Paddington and the Browns end up in a perilous adventure with all of them having to go outside their comfort zone and take risks to save Paddington.  Even the Browns no-nonsense housekeeper Mrs. Bird (Julie Walters) steps up for him.

There are so many charming and amusing moments in Paddington.  This is a movie geared towards families, yet it doesn’t feel juvenile.  There are some amazing visual set pieces that reminded me of Hugo, making Paddington’s world seem wonderfully imaginative and believable.  The cast here is strong all around, and Paddington himself is charming.  There’s a lot to like in this movie, and when the show is over, there are always the books to visit again.  You’re never too old for Paddington or marmalade sandwiches.  I’m looking forward to watching this one again on disc.

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Paddington Review By Nicole Corrado

★★★★ (out of 4)

Growing up with the five minute, stop-frame animated Paddington series, I have always loved the Bear from Darkest Peru.  This newest Paddington adventure lives up to the books and TV series.  Starting with a black and white newsreel flashback, we meet Paddington’s (Ben Whishaw) Uncle Pastuzo (Michael Gambon) and Aunt Lucy (Imelda Staunton), the first bears to learn human language.  The explorer that discovers them, Montgomery Clyde (Tim Downie), refuses to shoot the bears with anything other than a camera, leaving the Natural History Museum without a mounted Marmalade Bear.

Fast forward many years, when an earthquake kills Uncle Pastuzo (not shown).  Aunt Lucy is now too old to care for Paddington, so she sends him off to London, where she is sure he will get adopted.  A human family, the Browns, do discover him.  Mary Brown (Sally Hawkins), a children’s book illustrator, falls in love with the bear.  Her son Jonathan (Samuel Joslin) warms up to Paddington immediately, but Judy (Madeline Harris) is embarrassed by the bear, fearing her classmates may laugh.

Their father Henry (Hugh Bonneville) is quite worried about the risks of having a bear in an urban household, even if he talks and wears clothes.  Paddington is not sure if he is welcome in the Brown home or not, but he may have even bigger things to worry about.  A crazed taxidermist (Nicole Kidman) wants the rare bear dead and mounted to complete the Natural History Museum’s collection.  What’s a bear to do?

Paddington is wonderful on many levels.  The bear himself is just adorable.  His antics are funny, and he balances anthropomorphism and realism perfectly.  The human actors are also wonderful, with a range of wit, just enough scariness, and a lot of heart.  This film contains several messages too.  One is that animals should not be destroyed in the name of science.  They’re sentient, and feel just like us.  Secondly, animals are not property, but often family members.  And most of all, the message is that families, while not perfect, need to work out their differences and find the love that binds us, whether those families are domestic or encompass the entire biosphere.

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Consensus: Beautifully crafted and filled with clever little details, Paddington does justice to Michael Bond’s classic book series, delivering a delightfully entertaining and also heartfelt film that is outstanding on every level. ★★★★ (out of 4)

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