January 20, 2015

Movie Review: Paddington

Ahh, Paddington Bear. I have memories of this polite little fellow from the days of my youth. They are not extensive nor are they very frequent. In short, while I liked the bear as a child, he is not a character I was exposed to all that much of. Still, glimpsing bits of the animated show from the 1970's, memories are brought up of enjoying the marmalade loving fellow. Now, to be certain, this is no little known character dregdged up for a modern audience, he has an extensive literary history, dating back to his first appearance way back in 1958. Paddington is now being brought to a new generation, will it be worth your time?

The answer to that is exceedingly simple: Yes! Emphatically even. To be completely honest, I am shocked to say that. When I first saw the trailer, I kind of rolled my eyes at it. Basically, I wrote it off as a cash grab based on a classic character. I generally try not to dismiss out of hand like that, but it happens to the best of us. I then saw a friend in UK report that it was really good, then other positive buzz started to circulate. Could it actually be good? Frankly, I found it a little difficult to imagine, but it is. It really is.

Paddington tells the story of a young bear who emigrates from darkest Peru to London following a storm that kills his uncle and relegates his aunt to a home for retired bears. He arrives in London hoping to find a home, instead he finds the Brown family. They are dysfunctional on the surface, but not really all that different than any other family. There is the straitlaced Mr. Brown, the artistic Mrs. Brown, young teen Judy, who is embarrassed by everything her parents do, and Jonathan, their creative and rambunctious son. Paddington is injected into their lives and none of them will ever be the same again.

It really is a simple story, but it is told exceedingly well. Honestly, despite the positive buzz, I was not quite sure what to expect from this. What I found is a movie made with exceptional heart and executed with fine skill. This is family entertainment made without a trace of cynicism, self-awareness, or any sort of mean spirited tone. I can sort of equate it to last year's Lego Movie. Both films are great family entertainment that tell positive stories that center on family, love, acceptance.

As much as I love the mean, nasty, gritty films, there is always room for a movie like this. Besides playing a nice counterpoint to the darkness that permeates so much of modern entertainment and the world at large, seeing something that is life affirming and made well is a nice thing to have once in awhile.

Paddington is far from a cash grab, this is a delightful excursion into fantasy. It is funny watching the human characters interact with the little bear. They recognize him as a bear, but never pay it much mind. This is a whimsical world, not so much reality as something sprung to life from a children's book. It delivers a flight of fancy that never overstates the cuteness or becomes cloying. It never tries to be more than it is, it never winks at the camera, and always retains clear focus.

If there is one bright spot at the cinema at this early stage of the year, Paddington is it. This is what family entertainment is all about, even when watching it all by yourself! It is hard not to sit and smile at the antics of the kindhearted bear and the predicaments he finds himself in. He is the embodiment of what this family needs to draw them together, he provides that impetus to draw them together as a family. It is a sweet story, a young bear looking for a family finding a family that needs something to bring them together.

Highly Recommended.

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