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by Charles Tatum

"*Insert 'grin and bear it' or other variation of tired joke here*"
5 stars

Based on the series of children's books by Michael Bond, "Paddington" is an unexpected delight for all ages.

A British geographer (Tim Downie) discovers two talking bears while exploring darkest Peru. He lives with them, introduces them to all things English (and a love for marmalade), and assures them that if they ever travel to London, they will be welcomed with open arms. Many years later, those two bears are the guardians to a young clumsy bear (voiced by Ben Whishaw). The geographer named the now-elderly bears Lucy (voiced by Imelda Staunton) and Pastuzo (voiced by Michael Gambon). A sudden earthquake uproots the family, and it is decided that their young charge must finally travel to London to find the explorer. He stows away on a boat, and waits in Paddington Station for his new family and home, just as the explorer instructed them to do.

This is a fantastically alternate London where a bear on a train platform doesn't garner a second glance. The Brown family happens by, and free-spirited illustrator Mary (Sally Hawkins) overrules her insurance analyst husband (Hugh Bonneville) in taking the bear home for the night. Now christened Paddington, the bear gets into immediate mischief in this modern world, much to the amusement of young son Jonathan (Samuel Joslin), the terminal embarrassment of teen daughter Judy (Madeleine Harris), and the seen-it-all attitude of housekeeper Mrs. Bird (Julie Walters, doing an outstanding job in her new career as a character actress). The family helps Paddington try to find the nameless explorer who promised to take care of the bear's family, but villainous Millicent (Nicole Kidman) would rather stuff Paddington and display him in the natural history museum.

Author Michael Bond is still alive (he cameos here), and great care seems to have been taken to not turn his creation into yet another hipper-than-thou monstrosity with little resemblance to the books. During the film, I was reminded of stories from Dr. Seuss being turned into live-action failures. "Paddington" is a sweet film without the treacle, showing children the importance of family and home without patronizing the core audience. It's non-obnoxiousness is refreshing, with its one gross out gag (Paddington's use of two toothbrushes to clean his ears) even more gross because it is the only one here.

Almost immediately, you forget that Paddington is a computer animated effect. The film is full of magical realism that is accepted as reality in this version of London life. Screenwriter and director Paul King lovingly shoots his script without boring the audience. The kids I saw the film with were taken with the bear and the Brown family, laughing at the sometimes overly silly slapstick. Kidman and Peter Capaldi (as the Browns' nosy neighbor) have some laugh out loud scenes. The rest of the cast is outstanding, with Jim Broadbent turning in a nice performance as an antiques dealer.

There is plenty here for both young and old (check out more than one nod to "Mission: Impossible," ironic for the film franchise's connection to an ex-husband of Kidman's), and the film made me homesick for London and English life in general (I lived at a Royal Air Force base in the early '90's and loved every minute of it). "Paddington" is a genuine surprise, and an excellent one at that.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=25993&reviewer=325
originally posted: 01/28/15 16:39:16
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User Comments

1/21/15 Bob Dog Perfect - - a new classic is born!!!!! 5 stars
1/17/15 Simon A welcome, witty, easy-going family film. Kidman villain character a bit off though 4 stars
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