Like many others of my generation, I grew up reading the Paddington Bear books by Michael Bond. My love of this little Peruvian bear who arrived in London wearing a red hat and a tag, had me wary of the movie. Paddington came out early this year. The first trailer had me extra suspicious that this was going to be another goofy, gross adaptation of a sweet, classic story.
What I didn’t expect was a witty, colorful, endearing new film with a tenderhearted adoption message.
The movie opens with excellent CGI scenes of a charming bear family in Peru being filmed by an early 19th century explorer. The English explorer discovers these particular bears to be exceptionally intelligent and adaptable and so he teaches them to speak English. And to drink tea like the English. And to eat marmalade like the English. As he leaves them, he tells them that if they ever need anything, they can find him in London and he’ll do whatever he can to help.
Fastforward a couple bear generations and we meet a young bear who lives with his aunt and uncle in a Peruvian treehouse reminiscent of an English cottage. The bears have retained their knowledge of English/human life and all of it’s customs. In a moment of tragedy, the young bear who will soon be named Paddington, loses his dear uncle. His aunt then launches Paddington on a ship to London to find the explorer who so long ago promised to look after them.
Paddington winds up in a train station and, as you can imagine, a young bear in London does not go unnoticed. However, the movie plays his bearishness off with adorable ease. He’s treated much more like a funny foundling than an animal who happens to be able to talk. When the Brown family notices him sitting on his small suitcase, Mr. Brown wants to keep walking and let Paddington fend for himself. However, Mrs. Brown’s heart melts at the sight and the family finally decides to take him back to their brownstone while he looks for the explorer.
Of course, the old explorer is long gone by this point and Paddington soon learns that there is no one waiting for him in London with open arms. As a matter of fact, there is someone there who wants very much to find him, but not to help him. The evil taxidermist, Millicent, wants nothing more than to stuff Paddington and put him in her museum!
This movie was delightful. I thought it was sweet and funny and appropriate for even young children, while giving ample entertainment to older kids (such as myself!) Downton Abbey’s Hugh Bonneville and the adorable Sally Hawkins were perfect as Mr. and Mrs. Brown. I loved Nicole Kidman as the villainous Millicent and the irreplaceable Imelda Staunton and Michael Gambon as the voices of the charming, “anglified” bear couple.
Watching the transformation of the hesitant, straight-laced Mr. Brown learning to love the clumsy, unusual new member of his family was wonderful. Without spoiling everything, I would say that this movie has an adoption message I can stand behind.
I highly recommend looking for this new classic on DVD in April!
(To aid your decision as to whether or not your child should see this movie, I recommend checking out the review at pluggedin.com)
Did you see Paddington in theaters? What did you think?