Talking Bear Movie ‘Paddington’ Is So Good, It Makes Other Movies Look Silly [Movie Review]
Paddington is a PG-rated family film about a talking bear who moves from the jungles of Peru to London. That premise, based on a popular series of children’s book by Michael Bond, is obviously silly. Yet writer director Paul King‘s adaptation is so on the money, so well-done, so deceptively simple, heartfelt and flat-out entertaining, it make movies with far more plausible plots seem silly by comparison.
Below read the rest of our Paddington movie review, which talks about what the movie does right that others should take note of.
Keep It SimpleFilms these days are complicated. Two plus hours of plot upon plot, liberally illustrated with action scenes, trying to give theatrical audiences their money’s worth. Paddington gives people their money’s worth by being simple, direct and having a good story.
The film starts with a newsreel setting up a world where an English explorer travels to “Darkest Peru” on an expedition. There he finds a rare species of walking, talking bear. Fast-forward a few decades and those bears have had a kid (Paddington, voiced by Ben Whishaw) who is forced to move to London. Once in London, he has to find a home.
That’s it. That’s the story. The rest of the movie – which runs just under 90 minutes – follows Paddington and the London family (including Downton Abbey‘s Hugh Bonneville and Oscar nominee Sally Hawkins) trying to find a place for Paddington to live. It’s a simple story that rarely deviates from that goal, save for one or two fun little effects-driven action sequences.
Take Things SeriouslyIt would have been very easy for Paddington to waste half its run time with people in London scared of or confused by the sight of a walking, talking bear. In fact, that’s something you expect from a traditional movie. But that never happens in King’s film and that very important decision sets the tone for the entire movie.
By making the audience believe this world is totally fine with a bear who talks, it instantly sets the table for everything else. It’s fun, it’s a little irreverent, but it takes itself very seriously. There’s no ill will here. And there’s no awkwardness created by confused or evil human beings. Everyone is fine with a walking and talking bear, so the audience can be, too. Then we can just enjoy the ride, laugh at the jokes, and begin to fall in love with the characters in the film.
The one minor gripe with the film is King’s tone is so set, specific and lovely, those aforementioned effects-driven action sequences feel a bit out of place, but you understand and forgive their inclusion. This is a movie for kids after all.
A Strong Family DynamicEven in the best family films of all time, the families at the center of the movie often break into factions. Maybe the kids versus the parents, the mom versus the dad, or everyone versus the mom. Once those films start to move along, you only see a few of those characters going on the adventure. In Paddington, while there is definitely a unique and rocky family dynamic, eventually it becomes a literal family adventure. The mother, father, daughter, son and even the housekeeper all team up to help Paddington in his quest to find a home.
How rare is that? To see a healthy family, with a singular goal, working together towards that goal throughout a movie? It’s so refreshing and surprising that it makes the film even more warm and inviting. That drive also sets up lots of funny jokes, and moments of redemption and drama, but everything has much higher stakes because the family is doing it together.