The majority of today’s children movies follow the same pattern. They have to be loud, colorful, and full of jokes that all ages can enjoy. With these kind of ingredients we have seen some of the best (The Lego Movie) and some of the all-time worst (The Nut Job and Gnomeo & Juliet to name a few) animated features recently. It would be nice if we could go back to the older days of children films, animated or otherwise, and showcase more than obnoxiousness for today’s generation. Enter Paddington Bear, a British literary import who is suddenly getting a new release for today’s generation of movie-goers. Despite the improbabilities, Paddington walks away with being one of the most heartfelt pictures to be released in quite some time.
Here is what you need to know about Paddington Bear: He is a rare, Peruvian bear who moves to London to find his adopted family. It is so refreshing to have that simple plot and not be bogged down with complications or needless backstory. Yes, bears can talk in this universe and human never express the implausibility of it. All that matters is that Paddington is a loveable, if not terribly clumsy, creature who gets into all sorts of adventures. Director/Writer Paul King and Hamish McColl (with a slew of writers who are thanked at the end) wanted to make sure the characters come first rather than unnecessary elements.
Let’s take a closer look with the writing as this is as old school as you can get with the humor. Lots of scenes with Paddington getting into all sorts of mess (which Hamish McColl knows a lot about as a Mr. Bean alum) that kids can laugh at. It may be the simplest of jokes and an adult viewer might have seen them all before, but it is safe humor and there is enough clever puns & sign gags to keep the parents happy. A lot certainly helps with the actors who seem to relish in their roles such as Sally Hawkins as a soft spoken mother and Nicole Kidman almost stealing the film as an evil taxidermist. Considering he was a replacement at the last minute Ben Whishaw does more than a commendable job as the titular character who is polite and makes constant reminder he is in fact a bear.
What children might not appreciate, but adults and this reviewer will, is how beautiful this movie is. Director Paul King and Cinematographer Erik Wilson do a marvelous job putting in as much clever setups and camera angles to this. There are incredible views of jungles, the city of London itself, and settings that are right out of a child’s imagination like the endless tubes cluttering the Royal Geographical Society’s headquarters. All of this would be for naught if Paddington did not work as a CGI character but, for the most part, the animators did a good job. Paddington is a real bear that is hardly cartoony and interacts with everything and everyone impeccably. Despite some uncanny valley stares (as the posters have hilariously indicated) he is up there as one of the best computer characters put on film.
Coming out of Paddington it is hard not to have a smile on your face. Sure some of the jokes are a little outdated and if you are not keen on anything British than this certainly isn’t the film for you. It is just nice to see a children’s film that actually put in the time and effort to be heartwarming. Unlike what we mostly get today in even good animated features where characters have to scream and colors are assaulting your eyeballs. Maybe this movie is dated for its sensibilities but it could also show how you don’t need to take the easy way out with your animated movies.