Plot: An intrepid explorer happened upon a most unusual discovery, as he found a species of bears that functioned much like humans, with speech, social patterns, and friendly dispositions. The explorer studies the bears, but soon has to return home and he tells them that they’re welcome in London. Years later, the bears would remain a hidden secret, but when a young cub finds himself orphaned and without a home, he recalls the stories of the explorer and London. So he stows aboard a ship and journeys to London, in hopes of the promised warm welcome and a fresh start. He is taken in for a night by a friendly family, given the name of Paddington, and assured they will help him find a new home. The patriarch of the family worries about the trouble Paddington could cause, which proves to be well founded, as the tiny bear causes some big messes. Soon the bear is well known thanks to his kindness and clumsy nature, which attracts the attention of a woman who might not have his best interests at heart. Will Paddington find his new home or will he wind up somewhere no animal wants to be?
Entertainment Value: Based on the immensely popular book series, Paddington had some big shoes to fill, given how beloved the title character is to millions of folks across the world. The movie delivers a simple, predictable narrative, but surrounds it with the kind of charm and mischief that the little bear is so famous for. So while the premise isn’t all that original, the movie is able to do what it needs to, which is to capture some of the magic of the source material. The movie keeps a fast pace and the humor is on a steady flow, but doesn’t feel forced and the storyline isn’t buried under the slapstick. I think the writers were able to make the humor an organic part of the narrative, such as the craziness that unfolds when Paddington tries to use a bathroom for the first time by himself. The tone is silly of course, but it should be, as the little bear is known for finding himself in trouble, through clumsiness or naive curiosity. The movie also takes some time to invest in the narrative and characters, so that when the emotional beats come in, they feel a little more earned. So humor, heart, and a faithful take on a beloved character, this one gets a lot right.
The actual character of Paddington is brought to life through CGI and is quite a technical feat, even if a little rough around the edges. An all CGI character in an otherwise live action movie can make composites and such tricky, but I think for the most part, the bear is impressive. Some of the scenes where Paddington interacts with people and objects look off, but that is to expected in a case like this. The detail in the design is strong and he’s a more than capable lead. On the human side, we have a quirky performance from Sally Hawkins and Hugh Bonnville is up to snuff as the straight man, which is important to a lot of the comedic moments. I also liked Nicole Kidman camping it up as a blade wielding villain, as she is quite scary, but also so over the top it makes the role a good fit for a family oriented picture. The cast here also includes Peter Capaldi, Matt Lucas, Julie Walters, and the voices of Imelda Staunton and Michael Gambon.