Sunday, January 25, 2015

Movie Review: "Paddington" (2015)

Director: Paul King
Rating: PG
Running Time: 1 hour, 35 minutes
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While exploring darkest Peru, English explorer Montgomery Clyde (Tim Downie) discovers a new species of bear. He spends time studying them, names them Lucy (Imelda Staunton) and Pastuzo (Michael Gambon), and even teaches the bears a bit of English. He also introduces them to orange marmalade. He tells them all about his hometown of London and tells them they are always welcome there. Now, many years later, those bears have a nephew currently named gerrrroooorrr, but soon to be called Paddington (Ben Whishaw). Paddington lives with them, speaks English and loves marmalade, too. After their home is destroyed in an Earthquake, which also causes the death of Pastuzo, Lucy sends Paddington to England to find a new home. Once arriving in London, the little bear stands at Paddington station with a note around his neck simply reading, "Please look after this bear, Thank You." Most ignore him, except for Mary Brown (Sally Hawkins), who offers to help him, much to the chagrin of her husband Henry (Hugh Bonneville). She names him Paddington for obvious reasons. They agree to take him in and give him a temporary home until they can find him a permanent one. What they nor Paddington know is a taxidermist named Millicent (Nicole Kidman) has been searching for a specimen like Paddington to stuff and put in the museum where she works. She will do everything she can to make him an exhibit, named Ursa Marmalada.  

Here's another (back-to-back) example of the trailer dichotomy we were talking about in our review of "The Wedding Ringer." In the case of "Paddington," in an effort to draw in kids, all of the silliest parts of the movie were showcased in its trailer. Well, folks, movies are not the sum of their trailers because "Paddington" is seriously one of the cutest kids movies we have ever seen! BigJ and I had huge grins on our faces the entire movie to the point where our cheeks hurt after all was said and done.

The movie gets its super sad part out of the way early on. I guess the depressing film opener is not only for Disney. From there, we get to watch Paddington try to find his place in London, which is not what he thought it would be. People are rude, they have no manners, and they don't want to be associated with the likes of a bear...that is, until the Brown family takes an interest. We as audience members know all too well that housing bears can make for some sticky and tricky situations. It's clear that the family is in strife, and Paddington might be the one to solidify them as a unit once again. Each of the Browns have their own quirks. These quirks are put on display in a series of wonderful little vignettes from the point of view that can only be described as a smaller dollhouse version of their home. The door opens to find each room of the Brown's house occupied by one of its family members. When panned back, the scene of this house is both colorful and zany. Mr. Brown, played masterfully by the fantastic Hugh Bonneville, is a risk analyst and does not let his kids do anything that seems the slightest bit dangerous. Mary Brown, played by the delightful and eccentric Sally Hawkins, is the only one who sees that Paddington is truly more than just a lost bear. We watch her convince the rest of the family that he's not so bad, while simultaneously trying to be there for her kids, even though she is often intruding. Judy Brown, played by Madeleine Harris, is a perpetually embarrassed teenager who thinks her parents are the least cool people in the world. Jonathan, youngest member of the Brown clan, played by Samuel Joslin, likes to build things and take risks, which is his dad's worst nightmare. Then, there is Mrs. Bird, played by Julie Walters, who likes everything in tip top shape and in its place. She was such a welcome addition to the film. These vignettes come together in a masterful interlude, while simultaneously keeping the story going. We absolutely love the way the director of the movie, Paul King, made these scenes come to life. When panned in, we find out that each of the Brown's has a reason for why they are the way they are. That's the thing about "Paddington," there were tons of "if you blink, you might miss it" details that we adored. Somehow, King not only made them fit into the story, but did so seamlessly and gently. There was no frenetic pacing, no rushing, no awkward moments where one might feel like that had to look at their watch to see when the movie would be over. This movie was actually sort of perfect to me.

Not only is the story adorable, but it looks like each and every person involved with this movie took a painstaking amount of time and pride and diligence to get the film just right to maintain the spirit and the essence of the beloved Paddington. It is not only extremely well acted by all of its participants, but it is a fun film to boot. Even Nicole Kidman, resident "nose turned up" actress looked like she was having a ball as the film's villain Millicent, who wanted to catch Paddington to stuff for her father's museum exhibit. Dark, but not overwhelmingly so in comparison to other kids movies, Kidman is sort of a freak, but she makes a wickedly satisfying bad-gal. It honestly looks like this movie was a riot to make! The computer animated graphics mixed in with live action was also brilliant. In fact, it's one of the best CGI and live action hybrid films we have seen. Usually, there are a lot of visible problems and critiques to be made, but all of the CGI in this film was rather flawless.

Kids will love this flick, but the adults who grew up with the series will love it on their own, too. We can remember reading Paddington as kids, so to see him come alive on the big screen is nothing short of fantastic. The vibrancy of its colors, the special and intricate details of the setting and plot, as well as the humor and smiles it brings makes this movie definitely worth seeing in theaters. Please give this film a chance. It is so much better than half of the drivel that is put out there and masqueraded as a "family friendly" kids movie. This cuddly little bear is one you will want to squeeze forever and ever, and this movie is one that we envision watching for years to come.

My Rating: 9/10
BigJ's Rating: 8.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.6/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 98%
Do we recommend this movie: ABSOLUTELY YES!!!

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