Paddington: Charmingly Naive Tale of Peruvian Bear in London

With Paddington, producer David Heyman (Harry Potter franchise)  has overseen the screen version of Michael Bond’s bestselling book, resulting in a warm and pleasant film that is rather slight (and a bit silly) for feature-length.

As directed by Paul King, the film is reassuringly old-fashioned family entertainment, the kind of which we don’t see much anymore.

The tale begins with a black and white newsreel in which explorer Montgomery Clyde (Tim Downie) heads to Peru and stumbles upon a rare species of bear, who reveal fondness for marmalade and aptitude for languages.  Montgomery promises a warm welcome if and when they visit London.

Years later, their nephew (voiced by Ben Whishaw) arrives in London only to encounter indifference.  Mrs. Brown (Sally Hawkins), one of the few kind souls, names him Paddington and invites him home. While Mr. Brown (Hugh Bonneville) is more cautious, the children Judy (Madeleine Harris) and Jonathan (Samuel Joslin) welcome the bear.

Paddington, a talking bear with a dashing red hat, walks around in the streets of London, but doesn’t impress or shock people The bear’s unfamiliarity with technology–escalators, Sellotape, toothbrushes and other objects–provides some predictable fun.

Things change when Paddington tries to find Montgomery and meet taxidermist Millicent (Nicole Kidman, in a variation of Cruella De Vil) who wants to add him to her special collection at the Natural History Museum. The Brown family and the Scottish housekeeper Mrs. Bird (Julie Walters), who are fond of Paddington, see to it that it would not happen.

Ben Whishaw, who voices Paddington, is excellent in providing touches of innocence as well as determination.

The narrative is expectedly episodic, but some the slapstick comedy and sight gags, especially of Paddington’s involvement in races and chases, are naively entertaining, evoking nostalgia for such old Disney fare as Bedknobs And Broomsticks.

MPAA: PG

Running time: 95 Minutes