DVD Release Date: April 28, 2015
Theatrical Release Date: January 16, 2015
Rating: PG for mild action and rude humor
Genre: Comedy, Family
Run Time: 95 minutes
Director: Paul King
Cast: Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Nicole Kidman, Ben Whishaw, Jim Broadbent, Julie Walters, Imelda Staunton, Michael Gambon, Peter Capaldi, Samuel Joslin, Madeleine Harris
"Please look after this bear. Thank you." With these hopeful words written on a tag around his neck, a young bear leaves his home to seek his fortune in London. Clearly, this is no ordinary bear; for one thing, he speaks the Queen's English and has a rather worrying marmalade habit. And while he does seem to get into a lot of scrapes, they're not really his fault—something kids of all ages will appreciate.
His name, the English one, at least, is Paddington. His voice belongs to Ben Whishaw (Skyfall), who sounds so natural it doesn't matter that Colin Firth was originally tapped for the role. The bear's a charmer, the epitome of proper British behavior even while unintentionally wreaking havoc. It's his upbringing, you see. Years ago, a British explorer met Paddington's aunt (Imelda Staunton, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix) and uncle (Michael Gambon, The King's Speech) in "darkest Peru" and, before returning home, taught them English and a number of other useful things they passed on to their orphaned nephew.
But this is not just a bear tale; it's also the story of a family that has lost its way. When first they gather at the London train station that gave Paddington his name, the Brown family is a functional mess. It's not that Mr. Brown (Hugh Bonneville) doesn't love his children; he loves them so deeply he's constantly worried about their safety. Bound by his fears, Mr. Brown stifles any potential fun before it has a chance to get out of hand. The very idea of taking in a homeless bear is unthinkable! Fortunately for Paddington, kindhearted Mrs. Brown (Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine) doesn't see it that way, son Jonathon (Samuel Joslin) is all for it, and teenage daughter Judy (Madeleine Harris) just wants to avoid dying of embarrassment (not an easy task with a bear taking up residence in her attic).
Rather less kindhearted is Millicent (Nicole Kidman, The Golden Compass), a taxidermist with a personal grudge against talking bears. She'd be happy to give Paddington a home... in her collection of stuffed animals. Millicent is all sharp edges, snazzy outfits, and icy determination worthy of a Bond villain. Her ruthless pursuit of Paddington makes her the kind of "bad guy" audiences love to hate.
Paddington is rated PG for mild action and rude humor, but it's not that rude. I found it remarkably free of the kind of potty humor found in many comedies, even (especially?) those aimed at the younger set. There is bathroom humor, but it stems from Paddington's unfamiliarity with indoor plumbing rather than jokes of the poop variety.
The cast is full of familiar Brits: the reigning Doctor Who, Peter Capaldi, is the Brown's hilariously cranky neighbor, Mr. Curry. Julie Walters, the Weasleys' mom in the Harry Potter films, is a delight as the Browns' unflappable housekeeper. Jim Broadbent (The Iron Lady) has a tender turn as antique shop owner Mr. Gruber. They and their co-stars are a talented bunch and it shows. This may be a "kids' movie" but it's never treated lightly.
Downton Abbey viewers are accustomed to seeing Bonneville in the role of starchy British father, but here he gets to show off his comic side, especially when Mr. Brown and Paddington have to hack the fabulous filing system at The Geographer's Guild. Mr. Brown may start out afraid to color outside the lines, but he finds his way and saves his family in the process.
The Oscar-winning special effects team behind Gravity and Harry Potter created absolute magic on screen. While Paddington and family may take some getting used to—they're legit talking bears, not the teddy variety—that novelty soon wears off. It's the little things, like the dollhouse that opens to show the Brown family going about their lives. The elaborate filing system at The Geographer's Guild is absolutely mesmerizing. The tiny train that delivers tea and biscuits to visitors of Mr. Gruber's antique shop before coming to life as a refugee train during WWII is not just clever, it's touching. And that's part of the charm of this lovely little film. The previews don't do it justice; under its fast and furry-ous exterior, Paddington has a lot of heart.
CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers):
- Drugs/Alcohol: Woman distracts a security guard with a drinking contest; he is worse for wear afterwards but she seems unimpaired.
- Language/Profanity: There may be one mumbled “bloody.” A character is told to “shut your pie hole.”
- Sex/Nudity: Some flirting, reference to a “sexy woman,” and a kiss between Mr. and Mrs. Brown that will have romantic-minded girls of all ages swooning.
- Violent/Frightening/Intense: Paddington is frequently in peril, but rarely for long. One particularly worrisome situation had small voices in the theater crying out “no, save him” but all came right shortly thereafter.
Publication date: January 15, 2015