It’s yet another movie with a talking animal, who is supposed to be loveable, and something that can only appeal to kids. Except that that’s what the trailer and any promotion for Paddington will have you believe. And it’s a very wrong conception to have. This film held absolutely zero anticipation for me, and I can vouch for the fact that this wasn’t on anyone’s list for anything this year. Surprisingly, Paddington comes with a certain magical quality that works even better when coupled with that delightful and quirky British humour that cannot be replicated. It is most certainly an entertaining and cosy watch that does not require you to be under the age of 14. Quirky and loveable, Paddington is easily the best talking bear since Ted.
Like any other film that accommodates itself in so specific a location genre-wise, my comments are to be taken with a pinch of salt, as I see this as definitely one that will either delight or frustrate, subscribing to a particular section of the audience that is most definitely not based on age. The film has a constant feel about it that reminds me of a child’s eye-view of the world, mixing together figments of metaphorical imagination and the daily mundane such as the middle-class British breakfast table to form a blend that works in humour that can be appreciated by all. The greatest appreciation I can provide for the movie is exactly that – that it does not restrain its script and humour to make it kid-friendly; but yet it is not blatantly crass to step outside PG-13. Ted worked the angle of dirty humour with a childhood toy well, but Paddington is a completely different movie, very reflective of the tone maintained through the original books.
Paddington is the story of a bear-cub named “Rooaawaahar” whose uncle was discovered by the English explorer Montgomery Clyde, which eventually led to the bears’ adoption of human mechanics and their insane addiction to marmalade. Years later, their home is destroyed by an earthquake and “Rooaawaahar” is sent to England where they were promised a home whenever they require. Finding no one to take him home, the little bear is left stranded at the station, where Mrs. Brown takes pity on him and brings him home, to the dismay of her husband and daughter, and the equal delight of her son. Oh, and he’s christened ‘Paddington’ as whenever Mr. Brown tries pronouncing his bear-name, out comes a word not too kid-friendly. If this seems too generic a plot, that just might be true; yet you’ll find it never gets in way of the enjoyment of the film. There is little uniqueness to the overarching plot, with a traditional villain and loveable characters, but it does bring new comedy to the table. And it doesn’t hurt things that Paddington is just about the most adorably funny talking animal this side of the Chipmunks.
Now I do admit I had never heard of the Paddington bear and the books under the same name, and therefore I believe I can provide the most objective opinion in this regard, there being no question of nostalgia to sway me either way. Of course, there were a few scenes which crossed the line of cheesy that is inevitable in a film involving a talking bear and a one-dimensional villain in green stilettos. Perhaps the biggest turn-off for anyone in this film, the villain is a lady whose motivation is to kill and stuff animals to add to her collection. So, basically she’s Cruella de Vil. This possible low-point was made significantly better having the charismatic Nicole Kidman portray the character. Kidman plays the character with a flair that also finds itself well complemented by the strange neighbor to the Browns, Mr. Curry portrayed in all hilarious paranoia by Doctor Who’s Peter Capaldi. Therefore, the lack of depth and the cliched motive is compensated and does not take the viewer out of the smoothly flowing story.
The family that adopts Paddington into their lives – admittedly to a rocky start – is a close-knit group that works well together and have incredible chemistry. Perhaps my favourite character in the film is Mr. Brown played by Hugh Bonneville, a man who is very much in command of the nuances that constitute the essence of the British comedic sensation. He is able to fill the conflicting shoes that his role requires of him to the utmost extent, and this transition is elated to hilarity by the film’s unique design of sudden superficial changes to mark the obvious transitions. This is best executed in Mrs. Bird’s description of Mr. Brown’s stark deviation in character after having his first child. There were even certain portions that reminded me of having drawn inspiration from Wes Anderson-isms, which is definitely a plus in my book. Indeed, there were many times during its runtime that I expected it to take off and run amok with its imagination, which it didn’t. While that may have been to my disappointment, it is not a real fault I can pin on Paddington, as it is clear that in terms of style at the very least, it does not pretend to be something it isn’t. What it can also boast of is the amount of heart it displays, as in the shortest time it has us caring about the characters falling off places and rooting for Mr. Brown when he comes out fierce near the end.
The humour is the strongest argument in favour of Paddington definitely, and it is originality which salvages this comedy. This is something that has surprised me consistently about British comedies – there’s something about them that imparts a funny quality to the whole thing. Who knows, maybe the reason is that the whimsical English accent is perfect for the modulations that command sound-oriented comedy. There is a matter-of-fact tone that runs rampant through all the characters in this film which delights me to no end. Subjective, perhaps, but I guarantee a chuckle from your throats when the Geographer’s Guild literally ‘turns their backs’ on the explorer Montgomery Clyde on command from their uptight leader. It is this sort of clockwork-like action and swift movements that elevate the comedy and win this one numerous hearty laughs. In all, Paddington is enjoyable in its own way, and surprises beyond expectation in terms of character and the right blend of comedy. It isn’t something that demands a watch from everyone, but yet will not fail to entertain if you throw it on the next time you’re sitting down for a lazy Sunday.