PADDINGTON (PG)

A WARM FUZZY TALE


I confess to laughing so hard in the theater at this movie that it was downright embarrassing. I mean there I was a well over 21-year old adult sitting alone surrounded by little kids with their parents, and howling with laughter, (and I can really howl). There were a couple of times when I saw a woman nearby gazing in my direction perplexed, or was it annoyed? But, who cares! Seeing a beloved childhood character finally brought to life on the big screen was a waltz along the memory lane of my English upbringing and I make no apologies.

This is the sweet tale of a young Peruvian bear found by the (human) Brown family in London's Paddington Station. They discover him sitting atop a battered old suitcase, wearing an old red hat, sporting a blue duffle coat with a note attached that reads "Please take care of this bear, thank you." The Brown's take him in, name him after the station, and soon discover that he is incredibly polite, adores marmalade, and has a propensity for finding trouble in many forms. Almost immediately their furry little friend gets into one mishap after another with hilarious results. 

It was refreshing, oh so refreshing to sit through such a delightfully spun tale with just the right combination of sweetness, fun and innocence. Paddington is like the inquisitive toddler who wanders into one curiosity after another sprinkling the cute-factor across every scene. And, like the Narnia stories you simply takes it on face value that bears talk. 

Hugh Bonneville (Iris, Downton Abbey) played the trying-to-be-gruff Mr. Brown whose reluctance to take in the orphaned bear is quickly won over by the furry adoptee's manner and his own quirky family. What fun it was to see Bonneville (an accomplished actor) take on the role of a nit wit neurotic parent fearful of the possibility of his children's sudden demise. Sally Hawkins plays his odd-ball, but kindly wife who offers to take the young bear in until he finds a home. The fact is that the entire Brown family is missing a few marbles which works nicely for fitting in a bear - just so. 

The rest of the cast was like the hall of fame of British acting royalty; Imelda Staunton (Aunt Lucy), Michael Gambon (Uncle Pastuzo) and the British "Stanley Tucci" Jim Broadbent as the cheerful antique shopkeeper Mr. Gruber. Naturally every story needs an antagonist, and Nicole Kidman (who's been in a film or two), portrayed the devious taxidermist Millicent. (Now, that was a batty piece of casting).

Michael Bond's first Paddington story was published in England in 1958 and was eventually spun into many subsequent books with enormous success. I was initially thrilled to hear there was to be a screen adaptation of the books, but feared that Hollywood might not be able to capture the story's heart without an overt level of corniness. To my great surprise; the film paid justice to the written version, while still managing to capture the spirit of this beloved character with a sweetness I thought was long dead on a Hollywood big screen. Three cheers for Director Paul King and Marmalade Films for getting it right.

Without a doubt this is your standard fish-out-of-water story that would normally appear like a overplayed formula in any other setting. However, it's done in such a disarming fashion that you find yourself charmed along for the ride. At the end of the day this kid-friendly flick was low on corn, light on plot line and heavy in merriment. Even so, tucked within the "pages" of this lighthearted yarn was a lesson for us all about kindness, gratitude and the bonds of family; and I for one left the theater with a good case of the...warm fuzzy wuzzies.





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