Please don’t judge the film adaptation of Paddington by its movie poster. On the poster, Paddington the bear looks like the creepy British cousin of the Snuggle fabric softener bear.
The CGI-version of Paddington (voice of Ben Whishaw) is neither robotic nor stiff, but instead comes off as a charming, delightful character. The kind of character that children around the world have fallen in love with since 1958 when the book A Bear Called Paddington was originally published. But even with all the bear’s charm, a plodding pace and a questionable plotline leave the 2015 film version less desirable to watch.
The movie follows the journey of the little bear from “Darkest Peru” to London. Paddington’s elderly Aunt Lucy (Imelda Staunton) sends him off with a suitcase filled with orange marmalade jars and a note around his neck to “Please look after this bear. Thank you.”
After unsuccessfully trying to get the attention of passers-by in the London Underground, Paddington sits in front of the Lost and Found pondering whether or not he should eat his emergency-only marmalade sandwich tucked inside of his trademark red explorer’s hat. Enter the Brown family. As the family walks past the downtrodden bear, overprotective Mr. Brown (Hugh Bonneville, Downton Abbey) is chastising his son Jonathan (Samuel Joslin) for jumping and teenage daughter Judy (Madeleine Harris) is nonplussed about everything. Only the free-spirited Mrs. Brown (played by a delightful Sally Hawkins, Happy-Go-Lucky) notices the 3-foot-6 bear and invites him to spend the night, to the dismay of Mr. Brown.
As in the books and the BBC TV series, the well-intentioned bear instigates a series of mishaps that are mostly due to his naivete about city-dwelling life and his attempts to make a good impression to find a loving home.
You can tell that Paddington is a British icon by the humor and the star power behind this film. Jim Broadbent (The Iron Lady) as Mr. Gruber, Peter Capaldi (Dr. Who) as Mr. Curry and Michael Gambon (The King’s Speech) as Uncle Pastuzo play small roles in the film. Even actor Colin Firth reportedly gave up the role of Paddington because “he simply doesn’t have my voice.”
But most American audiences will be interested in Oscar winner Nicole Kidman’s turn as the wicked taxidermist Millicent, who has made it her mission to get Paddington stuffed.
This plotline left me baffled because it went against the heart of what makes the Paddington story so lovable and lovely — the adherence to family. This, along with a slow pace for an 89-minute film, made this adaptation less than charming.
Maricar Estrella, 817-390-7720
Director: Paul King
Cast: Ben Whishaw, Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Nicole Kidman, Julie Walters, Peter Capaldi
Rated: PG (mild action, rude humor)
Running time: 89 min.