By Jack Rico
The “1-4-0″: #Paddington means well. It’s an animated film full of inventiveness and charm, regrettably, it’s very predictable and not narratively compelling enough.
The Gist: Based on the classic British children’s character from Michael Bond, the film features an entirely computer-generated bear who interacts with a cast of esteemed British actors. A young Peruvian bear travels to London in search of a home, but before he does, a museum taxidermist wants to get her greasy palms on him to stuff him for her own collection.
What Works: Paddington has its admirable and appreciable moments. Ben Wishaw’s voicing of the bear is tender, kind and warm, the casting of the Brown family, led by the magnificent performance from Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey) is just right, the ingenious production designs are visually appealing and smart and the overall production value is up to par.
What Doesn’t Work: With all its imagination and sweetness, Paddington, has narrative issues it can’t overcome. Director Paul King and writing partner Hamish McColl create clichéish, overly-familiar sequences that produce apathy from plain ol’ movie repetitiveness. We’ve seen it all way too frequently – the family who has a father unwilling to take our protagonist in while the wife and kids are fighting to keep him, the mischief-maker who gets in trouble by flooding the house from the bursting bathroom door, the female villain with hair bangs who wants to capture our bear for the most implausible reason and it goes on and on. If I had never seen a movie, then this plot would seem fresh to me. This is why very young kids, 5-8 years of age, will get a kick out of it since movie watching might not be a recurring pastime. Also, you never quite feel like the bear is any serious trouble, perhaps because Nicole Kidman‘s character (Millicent) is soooo underdeveloped that our indifference to her is irrepressible. The CGI of Paddington the Bear is underwhelming. He doesn’t look real, at least not the way we were all fooled with the CGI from Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.
Pay or Nay? Nay. Paddington has a lovely tale of goodness, family love and the true spirit of adoption, but even though those attributes are well-intentioned, it doesn’t come close to a masterpiece such as Robert Zemeckis‘s Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Hybrid animated films, those which possess a combination between live-action and animated/CGI drawings, are a tough racket in Hollywood. Most are a critical mess such as The Smurfs and Alvin and the Chipmunks. January is a tough month to see great movies. Most are mediocre, uninspired cinematic fare and the most The Weinstein Company can expect is maybe a financial win through its counter-programming release strategy. Wait for this one on DVD, the investment in time and money will be much cheaper.
Release Date: January 16, 2015
Screenplay: Paul King, Hamish McColl
Director(s): Paul King
Starring: Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Julie Walters, Nicole Kidman, Michael Gambon, Ben Whishaw, Imelda Staunton, Jim Broadbent
Film Genre: Comedy, Family