Paddington

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In the deep jungles of darkest Peru, an explorer named Montgomery Clyde locates a family of semi intelligent bears, who he realises can learn English and have a deep appetite for marmalade. He tells them they are always welcome should they wish to go to Britain. The bears, Lucy and Pastuzo, live in harmony with their nephew. One day, an earthquake strikes their home, forcing them to seek shelter underground. Pastuzo is unable to reach the shelter and disappears (Paddington retrieves his hat), and Lucy encourages her nephew to go and find solace in London while she moves into a retirement home for old bears.

The young bear reaches London but fails to find a home, until he is taken in briefly by the Brown family, who name him Paddington. Henry Brown is adamant that Paddington stay only one night while they find a place for him to live permanently. Paddington causes a series of accidents across the house which lead the family to further ostracise him. Paddington believes he can find a home with the explorer who found them, Montgomery Clyde. The Browns find out that Paddington’s hat, given to him by Pastuzo, is in fact Clyde’s hat and valuable artifact, and thus they take it to an antique store to locate Clyde.

Meanwhile, a sadistic museum taxidermist Millicent captures and stuffs exotic animals to house in the Natural History Museum. When she becomes aware of Paddington, she immediately tries to hunt him down. With the help of Mr. Brown, Paddington locates archives that reveal a series of names that match “M Clyde”, and they use phone books to track the addresses of each one. While Paddington remains home alone, Millicent, scheming with the Browns’ neighbour Reginald Curry, sneaks in and tries to capture Paddington; he inadvertently repels her, but also sets part of the house on fire. The Browns disbelieve his story of Millicent’s attempt to capture him and assume that he must move into a new home as soon as possible.

Paddington, feeling unwanted at the Browns, leaves and tries to locate Montgomery Clyde himself. When he finally locates the house, he finds out Clyde died many years ago, and that Millicent is actually his daughter – who was bitter towards her father for failing to capture a specimen of the bears he claimed to have found, an act which also granted him disdain from the museum itself. She manages to tranquillise Paddington and prepare him for stuffing, but Mr. Curry betrays her when discovering her true intentions and informs the Brown family of the events. They immediately rush to save Paddington, who is detained in the museum. They manage to rescue him, and Paddington subdues Millicent by throwing a marmalade sandwich at her, which attracts a huge flock of pigeons.

In the end, the Browns adopt Paddington into their family and Millicent is sentenced to community service at an animal shelter. Paddington writes to Aunt Lucy saying he is happy and has found a home at last.

REVIEW:

I believe it was the summer before 5th, 6th, or 7th grade that I happened across Paddington on PBS (episodes are on YouTube, if you’re curious) during my random flipping amongst the 3 or 4 channels we had. After a couple of episodes I was hooked but wouldn’t you know it that right when I got into the groove of watching it every day, it suddenly disappeared and that was the last I heard of Paddington until I saw the first trailer for Paddington. Initially, I was furious that they had made this film, considering what studios have done with other beloved characters from yesteryear, but something tells me this one is going to be different.

What is this about?

This family tale chronicles the adventures of Paddington Bear, who’s rescued at a train station and taken home by a young boy. Paddington adapts quickly to city life, but there’s an evil taxidermist in town with her eye on the lovable bruin.

What did I like?

He’s a bear. For those that haven’t figured it out yet, Paddington is a bear. What this film does with that bit of information is something that others in this sub-genre, I guess you would call it, have failed to do, and that it they made him an animal, just one that talks. What I mean by that is he has all his bear instincts and such, having been raised in the wilds of darkest Peru, but he can talk, quite well for that matter. So, when you bring a well-mannered, talking bear from the wild into your home, some things are going to be odd to him, as it will be his first time seeing them. Kudos to the film for showing that sense of first time wonder, as opposed to something like Alvin & the Chipmunks which has us belive that they have been listening to the radio their whole lives and can automatically sing, are just accepted into high school, despite their stature, and doesn’t even bother to explain how they can talk!

Sweet ‘n low. You know how in many family films these days there is a mean, sarcastic tone that seems to be a reflection of how kids today act towards everyone? Well, this picture thankfully did not fall into that trap. As a matter of fact, this morning I watched a couple of episodes of Leave it to Beaver and the tones are very similar in that the main characters just want to be liked and do the right thing, as well as show respect to others. There are other factors that make this a very sweet film, but that is what stuck out to me.

True. As I said earlier, my knowledge of Paddington stems from little 5 minute segment that would air on PBS. I think we may have read a story or two in elementary somewhere, but there were so many characters that we read about a bear that lives on marmalade sounded a bit too much like one that lives off of honey. At any rate, as far as I can tell, this film keeps to the source material very closely, making changes when needed to fit modern-day. At least I think its modern-day. It never really is said, but the computers look to be a bit outdated, so maybe this is in the 90s somewhere? Why can’t more films take this hint and keep things close to the source material, rather than go off on some random tangent that ruins things for the audience and, in turn, the studios.

What didn’t I like?

Over to the dark side. The fun and bright nature of this is brought down by a villain who, at first reminds us of Cruella de Ville, in some respects. Nicole Kidman shows she can do comedy and not just dramatic roles. However, when the film reveals her backstory, it takes a dark turn that I don’t think was really necessary. Perhaps it is just the whole taxidermy thing that wasn’t sitting right with me. Why couldn’t she have been a zookeeper, scientist, or bear skin rug enthusiast?

Strict. Are all British fathers such stern taskmasters? I mean, the father in this film, played by Hugh Bonneville, is nothing more than someone who plays by the strictest of rules, doesn’t take any chances, but was at one time a free spirit. Kids change a man, I suppose. I seem to recall the father in the book/TV show being a bit more lenient when it came to these things, though. Perhaps I am mistaken, though, or perhaps they changed the characterization of Mr. Brown for “entertainment purposes”.

British actors. When the Harry Potter films started, I remember J.K. Rowling specifically making a point that she wanted “only Bristish actors”. That was her preference, and I think it actually worked out for the better. Can’t you just imagine if us Americans were thrown in the mix? Well, ever since those films have ended, you may have noticed that whenever you run across something British, it has the same few actors (Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith, Jim Broadbent, Imelda Staunton, Rupert Grint, etc.). Starring roles are reserved for the likes of Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, and ironically, Emma Watson and Daniel Radcliffe. This isn’t really a complaint, but Michael Gambon and Imelda Staunton are reunited as the voices of Paddington’s aunt and uncle and when you see their names in the credits, you think there is some curse on the Potter cast or these two have amazing chemistry.

Paddington was originally supposed to have been released around the holidays, but there had to be some re-shoots and Colin Firth’s voice was found unsuitable for Paddington, so they replaced him with Ben Whishaw. Personally, I think Firth’s voice would have worked just fine, but he could also have worked as Mr. Brown. I’m not a fan of changing voices like that, especially after the trailer has been released, but what can you do. Remember on Thursday when I said nothing good is released in the month of January? Well, this film is one of the exceptions to that rule. With its comedy, heart, great use of CG, and faithfulness and respect to the source material, it is sure to be a tasty marmalade treat for years to come. Gather up the family and go check this out ASAP! I very highly recommend it!

4 3/4 out of 5 stars

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One Response to “Paddington”

  1. […] had this in him? Maybe this is just aggression from being replaced as the voice of Paddington in Paddington? Also, I think he does most of his own stunts, but don’t quote me on […]

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