Daily Egyptian

‘Paddington’ is a joyous surprise

The film industry is full of surprises. While it can be a nonstop train of overused trends, actors and money-making ploys, once in a blue moon a film comes along and shows why movies are beautiful.

It shows the capacity the industry has to put out different, emotionally-driven flicks. Every once in a while, a “Paddington” (PG; 90 min) comes along and just knocks everyone’s expectations out of the park. “Paddington” is a children’s film directed by Paul King and starring Ben Whishaw, Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins and Peter Capaldi.

Based upon the series of books involving the titular character, the movie begins in a land of talking bears. One of the last bears left is Paddington, voiced by Whishaw, who lives with his aunt and uncle. After their home is destroyed, Paddington alone must go to Britain to find a new one.

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He is taken in by the Browns, a middle class family in crisis. The patriarch of the clan is Henry Brown, played by Bonneville. He is cautious to a fault, while his family wants nothing more than to be adventurous and happy again. Soon the addition of Paddington makes the gang realize family does not always mean blood.

It was hard to gauge how “Paddington” would turn out before its release. Sometimes, a trailer can serve as a hint toward the quality of a film. While no one should base their opinion of a movie off its trailer alone, its entire purpose is to give a short preview of the product. The trailer for “Paddington” did not show much off, so its success was a surprise to most.

Before Whishaw was cast as the accident-prone bear, another actor was hired. Colin Firth voiced Paddington for the entire duration of filming. Six months before its release, both Firth and King decided it was better to replace Firth. The reasoning behind this was Firth’s voice sounding too adult for the role. Whishaw was hired to give Paddington a more childlike quality.

Whishaw is the perfect choice for the bear. After seeing the movie, it is hard to even imagine anyone else voicing the character. The actor becomes Paddington. His voice just naturally flows from the bear. He brings the child-like quality the filmmakers were looking for, and more. He brings innocence and pleasure to character. It is easy to care for the bear in the darkest moments of the film.

“Paddington” does not shy away from depressing themes. While the film is not exactly “Requiem for a Dream,” it is a wonderful reminder of the children’s movies filmmakers like Spielberg used to make and Pixar is still making.

Another amazing quality is how well the family works. In film and television, it is sometimes hard to make a family unit look real. Filmmakers bring together a group of actors who are for the most part incredibly different people to play a clan. Sometimes it works better than expected.

The Brown family always seems real. Right as the audience begins to learn who the family is, their roles and personalities fit together perfectly.

Henry is a claim adjustor who is afraid of everything, his son Johnathan Brown, played by Samuel Joslin, just wants to have fun. Mary, the mother, played by Hawkins, is just looking for excitement to base her paintings on. Judy, the daughter, played by Madeleine Harris, just wants to fit in with everyone else.

Each member has his or her own little quirks, but also shares similarities real families tend to. Throwing Paddington into the group helps push the character arc of the bear and the Browns, as they both want to reconstruct their lost family archetypes.

The movie will make you cry. Even if you go in thinking it will not, “Paddington” is going to find ways to reach down in the deepest parts of your heart and tug on the strings.  It is one parents will enjoy taking the kids to. The flick begins the movie year with a little bit of a jump start.

Stars: 4.5 out of 5

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