The first “Paddington” Bear book, written and published by Michael Bond in October 1958, grew into a collection of over 20 titles. Paddington is as much an icon as any popular children’s book character, so it seems inevitable they would make this beloved character’s story come to life – surprisingly as one of the best CGI to live-action crossover movies to date.
Paddington’s story starts with a newsreel that is reminiscent of the open prologue to Pixar’s “Up.” The Geographer’s Guild of Great Britain has traveled into darkest Peru where an explorer discovers a new species of bear. His life is saved by these bears, and in turn, he teaches the bears of civilized life in London.
Years later, the bears known as Uncle Pastuzo and Aunt Lucy celebrate marmalade day with their young nephew. But all too soon, disaster strikes. An earthquake destroys their home and the young bear sets out for the explorer’s home in London. Aunt Lucy leaves a tag around the young bear’s neck that reads “Please look after the bear. Thank You.”
This small bear makes his way to Waterloo Station and is found by the Brown family. Immediately charmed by the bear, both Mrs. Brown (Sally Hawkins) and their son and decide to call him Paddington. Understanding Paddington had no place to go, Mr. Brown (Hugh Bonneville) reluctantly allows the family to take in the bear for the night. Almost immediately, however, Paddington ignorantly floods the Brown’s bathroom, thus initiating a movie full of both laugh-out-loud funny and charmingly-innocent incidents.
Of course, where there is a cute and cuddly animal, there must be a cold antagonist. Our Cruella-de-Vil-like villain is museum curator Millicent, who desires to turn Paddington into taxidermy art.
Paddington is memorably brought to life through the use of CG. This mix of CGI and live-action children’s movie has been going around for some years now and this may have been the best implementation of the duo I have seen to date.
Much like the “Smurfs” or “Alvin and the Chipmunks,” our story follows a CG model. But unlike the former two films, “Paddington” beats out the competition with a well-paced, memorably acted and stunningly shot film.
Paddington is voiced by Ben Wishaw (Skyfall, Cloud Atlas). His voice suites the charming demeanor of our small bear friend. Hugh Bonneville does a splendid job as the eccentric Mr. Brown, who is constantly worrying about the statistics involved with accidents. Then we have Nichole Kidman as our villainous Millicent, who does a great job at keeping her character both cruel and alluring.
The script is chock-full of sidesplitting jokes and physical gags. There never is a dull moment in the entire film. The only downfall to the story was the generic three act structure that makes up most modern children films. However, this in no way takes away from the cheerful screenplay and bubbly character writing.
Much like the CG bear himself, the movie as a whole is simply stunning. It is great to see that even though this was a children’s film, it didn’t skip out on the visual storytelling. I found myself locking in gorgeous image after image not wanting to forget how precisely framed each shot was. The costume and production design only helped with the beauty of each scene in “Paddington.”
Paddington is best enjoyed with the family or a theater filled with youngsters. I had a great time watching the charming antics of the duffle coat wearing bear. I hope we see more children’s films this exceptionally crafted in the near future.