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Review: ‘Paddington’ movie is sweeter than marmalade (Includes first-hand account)

Many adults are seeing their childhood favourites reimagined on the big screen, though it’s not always everything for which they could have hoped. In some (many) cases, the spirit of the source material is lost and the end result is a hideous, mutant incarnation of the original — or at least that’s what it feels like. But there are other times when the new version is the perfect embodiment of everything that was wonderful about the original, seamlessly transferring it from the page or small screen to a new cinematic landscape. Admirers and those with fond memories of the well-meaning bear will be happy to know Paddington falls squarely in the latter category.

Paddington (voice of Ben Whishaw) was raised in the deepest Peru by his Aunt Lucy (voice of Imelda Staunton) and Uncle Pastuzo (voice of Michael Gambon), who were taught the finer things of English life — including the language and deliciousness of orange marmalade — by a geographic explorer who visited them decades earlier. When they are no longer able to live in the Amazon together, Paddington is sent to London to find a new home. However the city proves bigger and less hospitable than expected with the time long past since a family was willing to gather a child — or bear — from the train platform and offer him a home; except for the Browns. With their help, Paddington hopes to find the explorer and with him a permanent residence. But in addition to Mr. Brown’s (Hugh Bonneville) pessimism, there’s a callous collector (Nicole Kidman) to contend with who is tracking the bear and wants to add him to her taxidermy collection.

From his passion for marmalade sandwiches to his good manners to his well-intentioned clumsiness, Paddington is just as you remember him and more than able to win the hearts of the uninitiated. His appearance is a cross between a stuffed teddy and a young grizzly dressed in his uncle’s hat and eventually his signature blue duffle coat with “sandwich pockets.” Most of the picture’s early mishaps are related to his unfamiliarity with the world as can be seen in the film’s teaser trailer that captures Paddington’s first time in a bathroom. But it’s that same inexperience that makes him loveable and occasionally a hero.

A scene from  Paddington

A scene from ‘Paddington’
eOne Films

The search for the explorer puts Mr. and Mrs. Brown (Sally Hawkins) in some interesting situations. Mr. Brown in particular rediscovers what it is to live and enjoy life as he goes farther than anyone to help Paddington in spite of his skepticism. And their nosey neighbour, Mr. Curry, is played flawlessly by the newest Doctor, Peter Capaldi. Starved for attention and an ally, he falls effortlessly under the collector’s spell; though he’s slightly less enamoured when she scoffs at his use of code names.

It’s generally impossible not to chuckle at some cute or funny moment in the movie and likely equally impossible to exit the film without feeling a little cheerier than before it started. Though the target audience is undoubtedly families, be assured children are not required to enjoy this adorable picture.

Director: Paul King
Starring: Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins and Ben Whishaw

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Sarah Gopaul is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for film news, a member of the Online Film Critics Society and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer-approved critic.

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