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Despite all odds, Paddington delivers and exceeds expectations.

The issue of Paddington is a tough one to consider. Paddington is a rather polarizing figure in children’s literature. His iconic look is similarly recognized like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’s Oompa Loompas, or Madeline’s big red hat, but Paddington isn’t nearly as well known. So writing a full-length film about a bear who wears a coat and eats marmalade is not nearly as easy to pull off as you may believe. Additionally, the film is quite British, and a children’s film, both of which give an extremely difficult tone to do well. If anything is true in children’s films, it’s that the tone and pacing need to be impeccable.
Thankfully, Paddington manages to address most of these issues and deliver a solid family film with quite a bit of wit snuggled underneath its oversized hat. The unconventional story latches on to the emotional core of the character, and a very real family dynamic which, surprisingly, is layered extremely well. Of course, the voice acting of Ben Whishaw as Paddington really elevates this character to truly being a remarkable addition to the production.
Paddington stars the aforementioned Whishaw as the titular character who grows up in a family of bears. The bear family was discovered by an explorer in deepest Peru and come to learn culture and human language, along with a fantastic and strange land called London. After the explorer leaves, the family sits around planning a trip to London, while adapting what they’ve learned from the humans to become more human themselves. Soon an earthquake hits and tragedy befalls Paddington, who is then sent away from Deepest Peru and towards London to find a real family to take care of him.
Paddington’s journey to London leads him to a family whose parents are played by Hugh Bonneville and Sally Hawkins. They take in the bear as he looks for the explorer so he can stay with him instead. Slowly, the deep rift between the bear and the family is bridged, and they begin to change each others lives in rather unconventional ways. However, forces in the background are amused and surprised to find a talking bear, and decide they want said bear for their own purposes, which I won’t spoil here.
The cast is filled with unknowns, especially the family. The biggest compliment that can be paid here is that you begin to view them as a real family, and not several actors hired to play family in a film. The family displays real kinship and react in the sort of normal ways you would expect a family to act. The father is overprotective, the mother is a little too prying, and the daughter is embarrassed of family. While these seem stereotypical, the reasons behind them are grounded not only into the characters, but the world they live in. The script pays as much attention to why they want things, as they do with the things they desire. This is a sign of solid writing as they make the world behave in a fashion that is understandable.

 

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Another piece of great work is the computer graphics that display Paddington and the exploits he goes through. While there’s only so much realism that can be added to talking bear, Paddington feels much more like a real bear and less like a creature developed in an effect shop. Paddington’s computer graphics also show several important weather changes, along with special effects that seem much more grounded in practical reality. This helps with the tone the film is aiming for and without pushing things over the top. It’s a solid selection by the production staff and show they have a coherent goal for the picture.
The film’s pacing overall is quite good. An exception to this is in the first five minutes, which  introduces the bears in their meeting with the humans, with Paddington living in Deepest Peru. While they effectively set up what Paddington is like, it seems much more childlike than the rest of the film, kicking the film off into a roller coaster of different emotions, instead of building a consistent tone. If not for some serious work after that, it could have derailed the whole first act.
The tone does hit several emotional peaks and valleys. The story, focusing on family and home, is a wise selection in theme that’s appropriate not only to the memory of the books, but in developing the character for the screen. You feel genuine human emotion for all of the characters. There are a few tense moments where you worry about what is going to happen in the future. One hiccup with this is the over the top issue with Nicole’s Kidman’s character. While well-acted, the character seems too one-note and the reveal late in the film is too coincidental, which is hard to buy into when compared to the rest of the film. The incident takes a little wind out of its sails.

 

I must truly praise the direction of this film. The director made several conscious decisions in tone and camera angles to portray a very specific story. Paddington reminded me of a lot of Pixar films where they chose camera angles to portray the world, tone, or story instead of going with the flashiest shot. The acting is well done, especially with child actors who were relatively unknown. Tight spaces are still effectively conveyed, despite having a computer generated bear in most of them.

 

Overall, Paddington is a must see if you have a family, or if you’re looking for a lighthearted film with a lot of emotion. Despite the problems that could have popped up, Paddington exceeds all expectations and could be one of the best children’s films of the year.

 

Directed by Paul King
Produced by David Heyman
Written By Paul King and Hamish Mccoll
Starring Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent, Peter Capaldi, Nicole Kidman and Ben Whishaw and Paddington

About The Author

David
Creator / Managing Editor

David Postma is the creator, co-managing editor, and writer for Filmtakeout. After receiving an Associates Degree in Journalism from Grand Rapids Community College in 2006, he attended Columbia in Chicago where he graduated in 2010 with a Bachelors in Film. Dave interned at Lionsgate Studios in 2008 where he worked in both the Television department and the New Media department. Dave also runs a production company, Beyond the Horizon, which helped to produce "Weed Road", a hit reality show on the Discovery channel. He currently assists with Global Benefits LLC in financing for commercial, real estate, and entertainment ventures; and he recently became Chief Operating Officer at M6 International where he assists both in financing structures for the company and helping assist overseeing productions of entertainment and commercial projects across the company stratosphere. Dave also sits on the board of directors for Downbeat Collective, a non profit dedicated to creating artistic endeavors to help provide funding to non profit organizations of various need.