Paddington – Christian Movie Review
A young Peruvian bear travels to London in search of a home. Finding himself lost and alone at Paddington Station, he meets the kindly Brown family, who offer him a temporary haven. (from IMDB.com)
I took my almost-three-year-old to see this film, and she loved it and wanted to see it again the moment we walked out the theater. I loved the movie too, and it’s essentially the perfect family film.
And — something that’s very rare — it’s of such high quality, as far as film craft, that it earned a 98% rating on RottenTomatoes.com — a rare achievement. (Only a few family films have had that rating — movies like Toy Story 3.)
I’ll give my opinion why it’s so good below, but first…
Parental Guidance Issues at a Glance…
Sexual Content/Nudity/Themes of Sexuality: A husband and wife kiss; a man dresses as a woman to sneak into a building, and another man hits on him not realizing he’s not a woman, but it’s all played for comedic effect. The taxidermist villain acts seductively around a man to make him do what she wants.
Violence/Gore: Mild PG slapstick comedy and perilous situations (characters hanging off buildings, getting hit by large objects, etc.).
Language: The word “damn” is written on a subway poster.
Alcohol/Drug/Smoking Content: An elderly woman challenges a security guard to a drinking contest with shots to distract him from the security cameras.
Frightening/Intense Content: It’s rated PG because, besides the mild action, the villain, a taxidermist played by Nicole Kidman, has a frightening display of taxidermy and her horror movie-esque dominatrix persona makes her a bit scary. She might frighten very young children (though my toddler was fine with it).
(Review continues below)
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Entertainment Value and Film Craft
Paddington was fantastic for four reasons. There are more, I’m sure, but this is what I observed:
1. The animation of Paddington. He was not only exquisitely detailed in his fur and bear-ness, but he had a wonderful personality, especially his eyes. They captured perhaps the most adorable aspect of grown grizzly bears: their large, cartoonish eyes — you know, those long, gazing looks that grizzly bears make that allow you to see the whites of their eyes. I have always thought that the eyes of bears have a startling human aspect to them. The film captured this trait perfectly as we see the whites of Paddington’s bright, observant, emotive eyes, and it made for one of the cutest on-screen characters in recent memory.
2. The Browns. The writers (which included director Paul King) did a fabulous job writing the characters for the Brown family that takes in Paddington. Each member of the family has an intriguing, enjoyable personality — unique and fully sketched — that makes the whole drama with Paddington more emotional and comedic than most family movies.
3. The use of miniatures. And by miniatures I mean miniature doll houses or a miniature model of a subway — wonderfully detailed little models that suddenly become the set pieces where characters appear. For example, Paddington is in the attic, and we see a doll house. As the narrator begins talking about the family, the doll house opens up and we see each member of the Brown family in the doll house going about their life. The doll house basically becomes a replica of the Brown home. It’s wonderful ingenious.
4. The actors. Everyone was perfectly cast, and they were immensely likable. And Nicole Kidman was a fantastic villain. I was especially delighted with Ben Whishaw being cast as the voice of Paddington (and as the narrator of the film). Whishaw’s astonishing performance in “Bright Star” is still firmly planted in my memory, and his voice acting added a wonderfully articulate, gentle quality to Paddington.
Despite all of the wonderful qualities, the plot with the villain doesn’t have enough believable stakes/tension in it. Does anyone really believe that the film is going to end with Paddington getting killed and stuffed by a taxidermist? I mean, come on. So that made the film a little boring in parts, at least for adults, because the villain’s plot was a non-factor from the beginning. There was never a feeling of real threat. It will be more than enough tension for kids to become totally absorbed in the villain’s plot, but adults might find it a little less-than-enthralling.
But everything else about the film was so wonderful that the unconvincing taxidermy dilemma is quickly forgiven. And, thankfully, the taxidermy plot is not the central issue at stake in the film. The dynamics of the Brown family, particularly the struggles of Mr. Brown, become the real plot of the film, and it gives the story a heart of gold.
What’s interesting about this film is that Paddington actually prays to God at one point. He is slowly coming to from being unconscious, and he hears Mr. Brown’s voice and says, “Is that you, God? I didn’t expect you to sound so much like Mr. Brown.” It’s meant for laughs, of course, but I found it refreshing that screenwriters wouldn’t be afraid to depict Paddington as having a belief in God.
Besides the whole taxidermist problem, the real core of the film is in the redemption of the Brown family through their meeting Paddington — particularly the transformation of the father, Mr. Brown. We see a man changed from being overcautious, paralyzed by fear, and distrusting of strangers to being courageous and full of kindness for those who are in need of help.
What I especially appreciated is that, by the end of the movie, they had made the father figure into a hero and a man worthy of respect from his family. In today’s popular culture, fathers, masculinity, and men in general are often depicted as weak, foolish, evil or unworthy of respect. Although Mr. Brown has some serious challenges to overcome in his personality, he does overcome them, and as a result he becomes a hero to his wife, their marriage is rekindled with genuine respect and love, and his family grows closer as a result.
Also the wife, besides having an endearingly colorful personality full of spontaneity and generosity, tries hard to treat her husband with respect, kindness, and faithfulness. In so many films these days, even family films, the wife walks all over the husband and disrespects him without blinking an eye — and is often applauded for it. In “Paddington” there is mutual respect and kindness in the husband and wife relationship, and that makes this movie even more of a gem.
The conclusion is simple with “Paddington”: it’s the perfect family movie. It presents one of the most likeable CG characters on-screen that I’ve ever seen, and it teaches wonderful lessons about bravery, trust, and kindness toward others in a world that has grown cold in its love.
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