When the trailer for ‘Paddington’ (you know, the one with the whole bathroom fiasco) dropped last year, I got scared. My kids cheered and talked about it non-stop for months and kept asking me when the movie was coming out and all I could think of was how AWFUL ‘Yogi Bear’ was and how I was probably already doomed to see that awful looking ‘Annie’ movie (which I magically avoided, thanks to a Grandma who bit that bullet) and I just didn’t want to have to see this movie, at all. I never read the books, knew nothing of the character, had no nostalgic reason to care and it just looked like sloppy, obvious, childish nonsense; and I didn’t want any part of it.
Then BAFTA nominations happened and word across the pond was that this movie was, you know, really good and suddenly I was interested and hyping my kids up because this could actually be one of those kids movies that I enjoyed.
And enjoy it, I did!
I’ll just get all the negativity out of the way first; Nicole Kidman is wasted here, or she wastes the character, however you want to look at it, and she was the only flaw I found here. Like, I hated her character, or at least the way she played that character, and I wish she had been extracted from the film because there really was no reason for her to be there (they could have done all the magical things they did with the story already without her ‘antagonist’), but I will not allow her small blemish of a performance to deter the absolute love and affection I have for every other aspect of this movie. Like, seriously, I heart this movie so much.
The film tells the tale of a rare breed of intelligent bear living in the darkest Peru who are discovered and adored by a famed explorer. Years later, after being introduced to his world through language and marmalade, the bears he met are speaking fluent English, living in the coolest tree house ever, and raising their nephew (who apparently has dead parents, because why not). When an earthquake devastates their way of life, the young nephew (later named Paddington, because of where he is found by the Brown family) is sent to London in search of a home, because why not. In London he does not find the warm welcome he expected, until he comes across the Brown family. This loving yet dysfunctional family, are at odds over the presence of this talking bear who is so clearly out of his element and in need of some help, but Mrs. Brown, a voice of parental reason, convinces the rest of her brood to take the young bear in for the night.
Slapstick happens, yes, but so does an awful lot of heart, and that is what makes this movie so special.
In fact, it isn’t the comedic aspects of this film that make it memorable at all, but the beautiful way that it molds the family element into every fiber of the film. The themes of unity, love, loyalty and acceptance are so deeply woven into every scene here, making ‘Paddington’ surprisingly poignant and meaningful. It’s in the simple details that this film feels so alive and rich. The fact that no one even bats an eyelash at a talking bear is so special, so surprisingly deep with thought-provoking identity that I can’t help but feel like ‘Paddington’ is teaching us all how to better our souls without ever once ‘telling us’, and I loved that about this movie, so much.
But there’s more.
The visual look of the film is so polished and so expertly thought out, from stunning snapshots and cascading, swooping movement, but the way that the Brown home comes to life (and subsequently loses life) in the presence of warmth and heart is so creative and so effective. And that score (like, where have you been all my life Nick Urata?) is just sublime in so many, many ways (isn’t this the absolute best year for film scores, ever). And then there is Sally Hawkins, who is an absolute TREASURE here. I have never loved her work as deeply as I did here. She captures the very essence of a mother, without ever feeling like a clichéd ‘prop’. She is alive and so grounded and so authentic and just absolutely EVERYTHING.
How Imelda Staunton, who was funny but nothing truly remarkable in ‘Pride’, received a BAFTA nom over Sally Hawkins, when ‘Paddington’ snatched up multiple noms, is just wrong.
So, yes, this has a flaw (ONE FLAW), and Nicole Kidman is rather cringeworthy bad here, and I feel like I have to give it a knock for even including her where I saw multiple ways they could have cut her out entirely, but I just can’t help but absolutely adore ‘Paddington’, and it’s one film from 2014 that I can’t wait to see again.
A, but that just because of Kidman...otherwise, I'd probably give this a straight up A+ and feel no shame!