After all the praise and BAFTA nominations were thrown on early 2018 release Paddington 2, I had to finally give the first film a try. Having avoided it due to the plethora of silly gags in the trailer and the unpleasant chance that I might have to share a theater with children (ugh), I never caught this film. With it staring me in the face on Netflix, though, it was impossible to ignore, and I am very pleased that I finally watched it.
Based on the classic children’s refugee allegory by Michael Bond, director Paul King, who has also done the sequel, found a cheerful family comedy without the foolishness I expected from the trailer. By highlighting Paddington’s troubles relocating without any knowledge of the human world, the film mirrors the refuge crisis still happening throughout Europe. The immediate assumption of hazard or distaste through othering people stops progression in its tracks, and Paddington presents it in a child-friendly way while maintaining the entertainment.
The impressive cast is filled with great parts. Sally Hawkins as the mother of the adoptive family is sweet and tender in a kindhearted role. She has the same palpable fun with less of the baggage as she was seen in her Happy-Go-Lucky role. Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey) is a staunch father who lightens as he learns to love his ursine guest. A percentage spewing risk analyst, his conniptions can be terribly funny. Julie Walters pulls a wacky aunt character with her fair share of laughs, particularly involving a male ego destructing drinking contest with a security guard. The highlight, as expected, was Nicole Kidman’s taxidermy obsessed curator. With the precise editing from Mark Everson, a mainstay in British productions, her near-mustache-twirling villain is absurd fun. Repelling in for recon, uncontrollably slapping minions, knife throwing; she does it all!
The film is far better than I could have hoped. The production design from Darkest Peru through the diorama perfect house makes a beautiful film feel comfortable yet impressive, and the museum rooms and individualized character touches make a doll’s house out of a family home. The sound editors also deserve plenty of credit. The bear sounds, along with a charming like teeth click, like a lip smack or tongue click, reveals some great passion throughout the production. Check it out on Netflix streaming if you haven’t already had a chance, or revisit it to catch some extra laughs. I’ll surely be catching the sequel once I can find a time I’ll avoid its target audience.