Paddington the bear – a British cultural icon – was not part of my childhood because the Internet wasn’t a thing back then and I grew up in India. So I was excited about this movie only because of the trailer, without all the history and expectations that come from the prospect of a childhood favourite character being brought to life on film. Oh my god, now I get it! How lovely is this little bear, lost in London, having arrived all the way from “darkest Peru”. I’m way past the age when you wish you had a Paddington come live in your house, but that’s how I feel! It’s not childish, I just didn’t know of Paddington as a child or else I would have done the same thing.
To recap, the film brings to life the story of a little bear, sent off to London on a boat after tragedy strikes his home in the jungles of Peru by his loving aunt who wished for a better life for him. Little Bear (his bear name is Graaaaarhhaarh – I’m not sure how to spell the sound) arrives on Paddington station, hopeful of finding a home. It’s a tad more difficult than he imagined it would be and when things are looking dire, he meets the Brown family. Mr. Brown (Hugh Bonneville) is convinced he’s a con artist of some kind, but Mrs. Brown’s (Sally Hawkins) heart melts and she welcomes him into her home — just for the night. She offers to help him look for a permanent home the next day.
What should have been a calm, one night stay becomes a multi-night affair with adventures, intrigue, kidnapping, misunderstanding and cultural confusion along the way. The bear, now christened Paddington (voiced by Ben Whishaw), doesn’t quite understand city life but is focussed on his search for the explorer who promised him a home in London. The family offers to help him out. A mysterious taxidermist (Nicole Kidman) hears of his presence in London and is determined to find him for her own reasons. Shoutout to Peter Capaldi who is delightful as the Browns’ suspicious, spycraft-obsessed neighbour.
I don’t know where to start with this one – the story is sweet and straightforward, hitting all the familiar beats and making your heart skip a few as well. Paddington is earnest and polite and just lovely. Then there’s the way the film looks – lush and rich in colour and design. There are so many clever visual tricks in this one, it would be impossible to pick a favourite. Imaginations were working to the max to make this come to life and the hard work is clear in the details. It looks breathtaking.
Final Analysis: Paddington is a lovely film, for both children and adults alike. I can’t speak to how faithful it is to the books because I haven’t read them, but as a film experience alone, it works wonderfully.
My advice: Go watch this film at a theatre near you, with the family!