Paddington Bear has been a beloved part of childhood for several generations. I grew up with the sweet and loving bear who found his way to Paddington train station from “Darkest Peru” to have adventures in London, England. With the new Paddington film, I was concerned about a modern update to the gentle furry protagonist of the British children’s book series by Michael Bond. Would he become a sassy, edgy bear with an attitude and dark sunglasses? That’s the typical contemporary transformation of classic characters (like the Smurfs, for instance). Basically I wondered: would they ruin Paddington?
I went into the film with my five-year-old daughter and the full expectation that they would. I’m pleased to say that I left the theater pleasantly surprised at how this new version of Paddington (voiced by Ben Whishaw) remains close to the original in many respects. Paddington is an animated character in a live-action setting (an approach used on family films starting with (now controversial) Song of the South and Mary Poppins and currently used in The Smurfs and Hop.
Yet this bear is incredibly lifelike, so much so that you forget that he is computer generated. His movements are natural, and at his heart, he is the same lovable bear. Hugh Bonneville takes a break from Downton Abbey to star as the dad of a family in need of some TLC to cure their dysfunction. Paddington might just be the one to provide that cure. Nicole Kidman likewise is branching out of her usual edgy, Oscar-bait leading roles in small films to star as the villain, a cruel taxidermist hellbent on stuffing poor Paddington and adding him to her collection.
This last part proved too scary for my five-year-old, and the prospect is indeed horrifying. Therefore I am recommending this movie as a great fit for families with kids age six and up. Parents will enjoy the fond memories of what a sweetheart Paddington is, and kids will enjoy watching Paddington unintentionally getting himself into the worst dilemmas, all because he isn’t used to life in the big city.
Check out Paddington for a charming family film that truly celebrates all things British.