Paddington could have been made with half the creativity and wit that it was and not lost a dime, so there is much to admire about the inventive intentionality of this big-screen take on the classic children’s lit character. The fact that much of the movie’s cleverness is cribbed from the work of Wes Anderson only dampens my enthusiasm a tiny bit.
Still, if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I supposed that’s especially true when it’s done this well. From the plinky score by Nick Urata to a dollhouse sequence that gives us a bisected tour of a London flat to the Royal Tenenbaums-like introduction of the main characters, director Paul King and his filmmaking team create a whimsical world with one foot in reality and another in an Andersonian place that doesn’t flinch with the arrival of a walking, talking CGI bear.
Paddington, the aforementioned bear, arrives in London after a storm has wiped out his Peruvian home. Having read about the way orphaned British children were taken in by other families during World War II, Paddington’s elderly aunt ships him off, firmly believing “they will not have forgotten how to treat a stranger.” But does this still hold true in the immigrant-phobic Europe of 2014?
Such allusions are inescapable, but Paddington doesn’t put too fine a political point on any of this. Instead, it mostly concerns itself with Paddington’s attempts to fit in with the family of an uptight risk assessor (Downton Abbey’s Hugh Bonneville) while evading an evil genius taxidermist (a very game Nicole Kidman). Plenty of cleverly staged slapstick ensues – helped by the tactile CGI animation that brings Paddington to life – along with a lot of familial fuzziness. Altogether, Paddington is miles away from the hack job it so easily could have been.