Director: Paul King
Starring: Ben Whishaw, Nicole Kidman, Sally Hawkins, Hugh Bonneville, Samuel Joslin and Madeleine Harris
Finding your rightful place in society, no matter how polite and full of heart you are, can be a taunting experience for anyone. But that harrowing adventure can be even more terrifying for a young person-or bear-who has unwavering faith in the kindness of others. That charmingly innocent confidence is powerfully tested in the new compelling family comedy, ‘Paddington,’ which is based on the ‘Paddington Bear’ children’s books by Michael Bond. The film, which was directed by English helmer Paul King, who also co-wrote the script with Hamish McColl, powerfully emphasizes that no matter how self-assured anyone appears to be, they’re also a bit vulnerable and in need of assistance, particularly when they embark on a frightening new journey.
‘Paddington’ begins by chronicling the joyful childhood the title bear (voiced by Ben Whishaw), who lives in the rainforests of Peru with his uncle Pastuzo (voiced by Michael Gambon) and his aunt Lucy (voiced by Imelda Staunton). The two elder bears fondly remember being visited by a British explorer named Montgomery Clyde (Tim Downie), who realizes they are intelligent animals who can learn English. After the voyager sets out to return to England, he tells the bears they should visit London if they ever have the chance, and leaves his red hat with them as a reminder of their time together.
While Pastuzo and Lucy happily go on to raise their nephew, including teaching him to make the orange marmalade that Montgomery fed them during his visit, their peaceful home is suddenly destroyed by an earthquake. While Paddington and Lucy are devastated when Pastuzo dies in the ruble, the two realize they must set out to start their lives over somewhere new. When Lucy decides to head to a retirement home for bears, she sends her nephew on a boat to England, so that he can be educated about English by Montgomery and his organization, the Geographers’ Guild of Great Britain.
Once he arrives in London, Paddington seeks out to find a family to take care of him while he searches for Montgomery. After hours of hopeless searching at his namesake train station, his luck changes when he’s found by the well-to-do Brown family. At the instance of Mary (Sally Hawkins), the family decides to adopt the bear temporarily, while they search for a permanent home for him. Mary’s risk analyst husband, Henry (Hugh Bonneville), is initially reluctant to take Paddington in, mainly because of the insurance challenges he presents. Mary and Henry’s children, Judy (Madeleine Harris) and Jonathan (Samuel Joslin), are also wary of their mother’s insistence of caring for the young bear. But when the family’s nosy next-door neighbor, Reginald Cury (Peter Capaldi), informs them that museum taxidermist Millicent (Nicole Kidman), who captures and stuffs exotic animals for the Natural History Museum, is intent on taking Paddington, the Brown family unite to protect their family’s newest member from danger.
One of the most endearing and charming elements of the Paddington Bear book series is the title character’s battered red hat, blue coat and heartwarming smiles. So King rightfully based his main protagonist’s look on the illustrations Peggy Fortnum created for the original literature in the late 1950s. In his desire to make the title bear seem as authentic as a real bear cub as possible in the family comedy, even though he was completely animated, King and the producers worked with 500 animators, compositors and VFX crew. The filmmaker smartly had a stuffed bear model created for reference for the special effects, so they could study and define a bear cub’s movement within his tangible surroundings.
‘Paddington’s Animation Director, Pablo Grillo, and his team intriguingly infused the bear’s signature hat and coat with a contemporary originality and simplicity, which powerfully emphasized how strongly the young protagonist wanted to fit in with his new family and society. Academy Award-winning costume designer, Lindy Hemming, also cleverly worked to not only infuse a modern feeling into Paddington’s iconic hat and coat, also skillfully emphasize how the bear was positively influence and impact the Brown family. While Mr. Brown, for example, always wears formal gray suits and blue ties, which highlight his continuously serious nature, in the beginning of the film, once he begins to accept Paddington into his home and family, be begins wearing some of the same colors of his new house guest.
Not only did the family comedy’s special effects team create a visually stunning and realistic animated rendering of the mischievous title character for the otherwise mainly live action film, King also crafted an emotionally touching story that grippingly encourages audiences to appreciate everyone in their lives, especially their loved ones. Paddington is charmingly presented as a new immigrant to western culture, who’s struggling to fit into the London society he finds to be eccentric and peculiar. While his aunt and uncle taught him to be compassionate and empathetic to the needs of those around him, Paddington also learned tolerance, the kindness of strangers and learning to fully love everyone from the diverse and somewhat disconnected Brown family. His willingness to understand others not only helped the young bear adjust to his new life, but also assisted his new family, especially Mr. Brown, understand that no matter how diverse people and animals are, it’s their differences that ultimately helps bring them together.
Much like the acclaimed book series it’s based on, King’s entrancing adaptation of ‘Paddington’ is an affectionate and emotional exploration into how a bear, who’s perceived to be one of the toughest animals in the world, can actually be caring and sensitive as he helps bring people together. The modern twist on the title bear’s iconic hat and coat not only draws audiences into his naïve and innocent nature, but also emphasizes how people love his optimism and logic about the world, even though they greatly differ from the rest of the world’s opinions. The live action comedy not only intriguingly incorporated thrilling and captivating animation, special effects and costumes into its story to stun viewers, but also captivatingly encourages them to follow in Paddington’s path, and appreciate everyone around them, no matter how different they are from each other.
Written by: Karen Benardello