Before seeing Paddington 2, let’s see how it all got started.
Synopsis: A young Peruvian bear with a passion for all things British travels to London in search of a home. Finding himself lost and alone at Paddington Station, he begins to realize that city life is not all he had imagined – until he meets the kind Brown family, who read the label around his neck and offer him a temporary haven. It looks as though his luck has changed until this rarest of bears catches the eye of a museum taxidermist. (Marmalade Films)
Starring: Ben Whishaw, Hugh Bonneville, and Sally Hawkins
Writer: Paul King
Director: Paul King
Rating: G (Canada)/PG (United States)
Running Time: 95mins
Animated or not, the best kids films appeal to both its younger and older audiences something to enjoy. For those who don’t know the story, the film is based on a highly popular British children’s literary character, a bear named Paddington (Whishaw). Forced to leave his home, Paddington heads to London in search of a new home and finds the Brown family including Henry (Bonneville) and Mary Brown (Hawkins). The story may not be overly original but for what it lacks in originality, it makes up for with charm.
Because of his limited experience with humans, Paddington was learning about how the world worked. This fish-out-of-water aspect of the story was fun to watch, not only because Paddington was a bear but because of his infectious curiosity and optimism. He cared for others and always saw the best in people even though he didn’t know anything about them. Adapting to his new environment wasn’t quite seamless as he had a few humbling moments which just made him more endearing. Being a kids film, there were other comedic moments that were successful more often than not, again appealing to young and old.
His relationship with the Brown family didn’t exactly get off to the best start but the script made them more than just a means to prop up Paddington and gave them a decent amount of character development. Over their time together, the family rallied around him as he made them better people and this strong family dynamic, albeit predictable, was compelling to watch. Meanwhile, some had more devious plans for Paddington as an obsessed taxidermist named Millicent (Nicole Kidman) wanted to add him to her collection.
Without a doubt, the best part of the film was Paddington himself. The animators and motion capture artists did an excellent job in bringing the bear to life. The sheer amount of detail from his costumes and his fir made him almost feel life-like. Regardless of how excellent the animation was, none of it would have mattered if not for Whishaw’s outstanding performance as Paddington. His energetic vocal performance gave the bear charm while making him extremely likable and engaging to watch.
The rest of the cast were great as well. Bonneville and Hawkins were great as the Brown patriarch that imposed his anxiety on his kids Judy (Madeline Harris) and Jonathan (Samuel Joslin) and the caring mother respectively. Julie Walters stole scenes as the older housekeeper Mrs. Bird. All the Browns and Mrs. Bird had terrific chemistry as well which isn’t always the easiest while acting alongside a CGI character. Kidman was solid in a role that was a departure from her usual roles as the film’s villain.
Overall, this was a great family film featuring a strong family story anchored by the compelling character of Paddington and was elevated by fantastic animation, a well-written script that appealed to both young and old and great performances, including the outstanding performance by Ben Whishaw as Paddington.