Paddington—What’s Playing?

By Casey Campbell

Following up Friday the 13th Part IV during my “Favorites Week” is a movie that’s a little less graphically violent and sexual. Paddington is the story about a young bear moving from Darkest Peru to London, England and finding a new home. When you see the poster for Paddington, you probably think it’s some throw away kids movie made to hold a child’s attention for an hour and a half. Upon further inspection, and by that I mean after watching the movie, it’s clear that this sweet story is much more than meets the eye.

After an earthquake devastates young Paddington’s native Peruvian home, Aunt Lucy sends him off to London in search of a better life and the English explorer who befriended the bears many years before. Upon his arrival, Paddington meets the Browns, a family of four with their own distinct quirks. They agree to house him and help in his search for the explorer, no matter how many silly adventures it may take them on.

Paddington is a great film in it’s own right for how it treats the material, and for how much respect the filmmakers have for their audience. There is no pandering or condescension when it comes to the story and humor, and the film making itself stands out as clever, heartfelt, and earnest. Not to mention the often brilliantly subtle visual gags and one liners sprinkled throughout (“You want to call him ketchup? Ketchup the bear?”).

Paddington works as a perfect storm in front of and behind the camera, with Paul King writing and directing the movie with beautiful flourishes of style that always enhance the story, and a general aesthetic that’s reminiscent of a storybook (or a Wes Anderson movie). Colors are vibrant pastel, the cinematography informs the story, and writer/director Paul King keeps flashbacks and character information compelling by visually removing it from the rest of the film—sometimes with black and white newsreel-style footage, or depicting the Browns’ house as a dollhouse that opens to show each character in their respective rooms.

For such a creative and intelligent film, it’s no surprise it also delivers an important message about belonging. Paddington lost his home, and has to immigrate to London. Once there, his new neighbor Mr. Curry judges him (humorously of course, as it is a movie for young and old alike) for being a bear, without finding out anything about him. Curry teams up with the villain (Nicole Kidman!) and tries to capture the bear, just so that he can live without the knowledge of some outsider sleeping next door. The message is sound and subtle and I’m sure many that watch Paddington and it’s equally brilliant sequel would never watch for messaging of any sort. It’s just another element that elevates this already good movie into great territory.

There are too many things to say about Paddington, and most of them are basically just references to the funniest parts of the movie. It’s for kids, but it’s also for adults. It’s also pretty, funny, clever, and has great music. Check it out if you want to smile for an hour and a half.

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