The Bear Stooge – Paddington (2014)

Surprising.  So this is about a bear from Darkest, Peru, making his way to London, trying to find a family to take him in as one of their own.  I did not grow up with this bear, so this movie served as my introduction to the character.  All I knew was that he has been the subject of a number of children’s books since the 50’s.  I’ve listened to a number of people peripherally about this, so I know what this childhood character means to people, which explains why so many were unexpectedly excited about this.  Having sat down and watched this, I would say this film has done this character justice.

paddington2Although to be fair, I think it would be difficult to mess up a talking bear that eats marmalade sandwiches, but I’ve been surprised in the past.

The biggest component to why this works is the same element that I am usually highly critical of in other films: the physical comedy.  I’m not usually a fan, and the only other example I can think of this succeeding off the top of my head as far as being featured this prominently is the Three Stooges remake.  It’s rare to see this be so successful, and even rarer when it connects with me, but here, it is just so surreal and bizarre that it does work.  This is very good-natured, and Paddington himself so polite and cute that it is really difficult not to love him.  He’s a very smooth special effect that is never at any point creepy (which is something that I was worried about from looking at stills), and they make the intelligent decision in the script to not overexplain everything.  This is just a universe where talking bears are an endangered species, but they do exist.  If they spent twenty minutes explaining how they learned how to talk, it would have slowed everything down, and unnecessarily so.

paddington1You don’t need a goofy montage of Paddington in bear classes, working towards his masters in the English.

This may sound like a backhanded compliment, but this is like a smarter version of Marmaduke.  You’ve got a talking animal, wreaking havoc upon this poor family’s house, only Paddington manages to do this while sidestepping the vast majority of the lowbrow humor; it’s always nice when more effort is placed, and you don’t fall back on picking the low hanging fruit.  The entire time this moves very quickly, and it is always on to the next thing.  I also appreciated Nicole Kidman, who has fun as the scenery chewing villain.  Also, the thing that is Paddington’s saving grace is that it’s funny, and the punchlines hit.  Paddington the movie is similar to Paddington the bear: charming.

Paddington (2014) ****

– Critic for Hire

Want to see where this fell in my list of best films of the 2015?  See for yourself here.

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