Something that I’ve noticed out of children’s literature is that there whenever animals are talking and playing essential characters, there are three types that authors will write. The first are birds; it doesn’t matter what kind of bird, but I see plenty of birds from sparrows to flamingos to blue jays replaying human problems. Next up are rabbits. These big eared mammals seem to be very popular in the cute and cuddly department and provide much entertainment from Peter Rabbit to Bugs Bunny. What I think is the most popular (and frankly, overused) animal happen to be bears.
Who would have thought that despite being one of the most dangerous animal on the planets, we have created a new identity for bear; as wholesome and innocent. A lot of this stems from the image of the Teddy bear toy which tends to be one of the first things people play with. There seen in fairy tales like Goldilocks and the Three Bears. There seen in picture books like my personal favorite, the Berenstain Bears. Their seen in short stories like Little Bear. One such bear that’s also popular is Paddington Bear, a British character that I’m not too familiar with. He finally receives a feature film adaption in Paddington.
Starting in the deepest jungles of Peru, we come across a family of bears that seems to be intelligent, speak English and has a fondness for marmalade. The older bears, Aunt Lucy and Uncle Pastuzo, live in a big tree house along with their young nephew. An earthquake destroys their home along with the loss of their uncle. Lucy takes the young bear to the ship docks to be taken to London as they were told by an explorer that they are welcome. The cub is given his uncles hat and a suitcase full of marmalade as he crosses the sea.
He lands in Britton without notice and finds himself in the Paddington train station where he looks for a new home. While waiting on the sidelines, the Brown family has returned from a vacation where they see the bear and while the rest of the family including mother Mary (played by Sally Hawkins) wants to take in the bear, the father Henry (played by Hugh Bonneville) wants nothing of it. The bear is given his English name Paddington, and taken in to find the explorer that found them years ago. Meanwhile, a museum taxidermist, Millicent Clyde (played by Nicole Kidman) wants the bear to stuff and add to the collection.
What surprises me about Paddington is that I probably should not like the movie as it engages in the trope of convincing the parent to keep the pet (something like in Beethoven). But for some reason, I found myself really liking this movie. It idea here is nothing new, but it seems fresh because of two things; the pet in question and the writing.
Paddington himself is a very likable bear, very curious and naive, and tends to make mistakes, but always remains optimistic. Think of him as a smarter Winnie the Pooh. Something like Paddington could have been a goofier children’s film had it been produced here in the U.S., but being produced by the U.K. has given this film to keep is charming roots and bring him into the twenty-first century. Though there are a few gag’s that could have been cut, the slapstick is actually well thought out and almost as funny as The Three Stooges. When I mean that the film is British is an understatement. I can understand why some kids may not get the dry humor and over tone present, but should you enjoy something like Monty Python and Black Adder, you’ll probably enjoy this more then you think.
I’ll give this four and a half Paddingtons out of five. This is a family film that I strongly recommend. Though the adults are not going to find that many adult jokes (good thing too), I think they’ll be surprised by how much they’ll like his bear.