Witty 'Paddington' will bring smiles to kids and adults

Tom Long
The Detroit News

'Paddington' is an absolute delight, visually inventive, thoroughly goofy and goosed by a mix of dry British wit and pratfall shenanigans.

It's no surprise that an abundance of esteemed thespians — Jim Broadbent, Sally Hawkins, Nicole Kidman, Julie Walters, Hugh Bonneville, Imelda Staunton — signed on for this live-action/animation adaptation of the popular character.

Co-writer and director Paul King has brought author Michael Bond's offbeat bear to the screen in a manner that's sure to please adults as much as kids.

Here's how it all started: A British explorer came to "darkest Peru" decades ago and discovered a new breed of bear that could learn speech. The explorer taught the bears all things British, including a love of orange marmalade.

Years later, the descendant of those bears decides to visit London. Somehow he ends up at Paddington station, where he meets the Brown family — risk-averse father (Bonneville), sympathetic mother (Hawkins) and their children, Judy (Madeleine Harris) and Jonathan (Samuel Joslin). Taking pity on the bear — and dubbing him Paddington (Ben Whishaw) — the family brings him home, despite Father's protests.

This is more than a fish-out-of-water story — it's a bear-in-London story. Paddington has no experience with civilization, so even a visit to a bathroom is fraught with comic potential, much less a walk down the street.

For the most part, though, people just act like a small bear speaking with a British accent is no big deal, although a neighbor of the Brown's does blanch at the thought of all-night picnics and such.

Paddington sets out to find the explorer who visited his country long ago, hoping to find a permanent home. What he doesn't know is that an evil taxidermist (Kidman) is out to stuff him and put him in a museum.

The imaginative designs here are reminiscent of director Wes ("The Grand Budapest Hotel") Anderson's visuals, and King has this wonderful way of moving from one scene to another and then back to the original, exploring fantasies within fantasies.

The film is loaded with back-handed social commentary — when a young Father and Mother arrive at a hospital for Judy's birth, they're "Born to be Wild" bikers without a care. By the time mother and daughter emerge from the hospital, Father is dressed like a banker and ushers them into a beige Volvo. Relate much, parents?

Obviously, the film follows a broad storyline — this is for small kids — but King and his cast adorn that storyline with so much humor and dazzle that there's never a dull moment. "Paddington" is a pure joy.





Rated PG for mild action and rude humor

Running time: 95 minutes

"Paddington" (PG) A talking Peruvian bear comes to London in this witty and visually imaginative kids movie adults will love. Parents, you have a moral obligation to take your tykes. (95 minutes) GRADE: B+