The increase in digitally created characters saw an increase this past year, most notably with the revival of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and with the intelligent primates of Dawn of the Planet of Apes. Although these films feature cutting-edge effects and technology, it seems to me that the greatest indicator of their success is the ability to blend in. The narrative should not be secondary to the impressive technical abilities of the film, and Paddington succeeds in having the spirit of the source material taking precedence over flashy effects.
This is not to say that the creation of the digital bear from the beloved British book series is unimpressive, but all of the impact of the visuals is lent to the overall spectacle of the narrative rather than simply showing off. The greatest compliment that can be paid to Paddington is to say that by the halfway mark I had forgotten I was watching a computer-generated character at all. Part of this is simply due to the excess of spectacle placed in the script itself, propelling the plot from one wonderful gag-filled sequence to the next. Simplicity in the plot allows for an increase in the spectacle, perfectly capturing the spirit of fun in chaos.
Not unlike a British equivalent of Curious George, Paddington is a young Peruvian bear (voiced by Ben Whishaw) who travels to
in search of a human explorer who once visited the jungles with treats from the
civilized world. Paddington has become a serious advocate for marmalade and
owns a human hat, but everything else in city life is a complete mystery to
him. This leads to a series of fish-out-of-water sequences for the young bear,
and the unfortunate family kind of enough to give him shelter. London
The Brown family includes the compassionate matriarch, Mary (Sally Hawkins), the strict rule-enforcing insurance analyst patriarch, Henry (Hugh Bonneville), and their two children (Madeleine Harris, Samuel Joslin). Each has distinctly different personalities, though Paddington slowly finds a way of winning over each of them. This situation is meant to be temporary, especially when their wild new houseguest manages to flood the bathroom on his first evening, but even Henry eventually comes around to seeing Paddington as more than a guest.
As much credit as is often given to the creation of entirely CGI characters, it is easy to forget how difficult this makes the job for the flesh and blood actors filming their portion long before the effects have been created. It is a testament to the cast of Paddington that this is not something you are likely to think much about while watching the film. This is also a cast that will appeal to audiences, while the bear is more likely to appease the children. Nicole Kidman does something of a variation on a Cruella De Vil, while adults will be amused by the sight of Bonneville dressed as a woman in one of the film’s sillier sequences. But it’s more than the cast that seems directed at adults, with clever and quick humor keeping the pace of the film brisk and energetic, not unlike last year’s first-quarter success, The Lego Movie.
Entertainment Value: 9/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 8.5/10
Historical Significance: 7/10