Paddington Review: The Bear Necessities

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There’s nothing terribly interesting about Paddington. It’s a cute movie about a British talking bear, and that’s pretty much enough.

Raised in the jungles of Peru, a young bear must make his way to London after an earthquake destroys his home. The Brown family finds him in Paddington train station, where he gets his name from. Paddington (the voice of Ben Whishaw) will either learn to get a long with this new family, and vice versa, or he will have to find a new one. Meanwhile, there’s an evil taxidermist (Nicole Kidman) out to make an art piece out of Paddington.

Whishaw’s earnest vocal portrayal of the classic character from children’s literature is the film’s true selling point. He makes Paddington instantly lovable. That’s not to mention the special effects team, who manage to bring the bear to life with some truly magical CGI. Talking animals in live-action films don’t always make for the most convincing visual effects, but Paddington is more Rocket Raccoon than Garfield.

But the bear wouldn’t amount to much if his supporting players weren’t up to the challenge of making a truly light-hearted movie that sets out to do little more than make you smile. Hugh Bonneville and Sally Hawkins don’t take themselves too seriously as Paddington’s surrogate parents, while Kidman is just the right amount of menacing and over-the-top.

Combined with a playful script and a good message, the whole package comes together quite nicely. There’s very little that’s fresh or thought-provoking about Paddington, but it’s cheerful nonetheless, and sometimes that’s enough. Grade: B

By Matt Dougherty

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