Bright and breezy ‘Paddington’ a cuddly joy

  • By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
  • Wednesday, January 14, 2015 1:26pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

Adopting a bear is not recommended as a real-world option, even if the bear is small and cute and stranded on the platform at a London train station. Make a note of this.

In the non-real world, the concept of bear adoption has worked out just fine for Michael Bond, the English author of the “Paddington” stories. (He’s still around, age 89.) Since debuting in 1958, his books about the amiable bear from “darkest Peru” have been consistently popular with kids and grown-ups alike.

Paddington has popped up as a TV character before, but — somewhat surprisingly, given the success rate of films based on familiar kid-friendly characters — not in a movie.

“Paddington” rectifies this omission. And this mostly British production is a winningly bright and funny feature, as befits the lovable main character.

It’s a live-action film, although Paddington is a computer-generated bear (voiced by Ben Whishaw). After a prologue in Peru, we travel with our ursine hero as he journeys to England and is adopted on the train platform by the Brown family.

Although the Brown children consider Paddington awesome, and Mrs. Brown (Sally Hawkins) is empathetic, it takes a while for Mr. Brown (Hugh Bonneville, from “Downton Abbey”) to come around.

Paddington floods the upstairs bathroom. He incurs the distrust of neighbor Mr. Curry (Peter Capaldi, of “Dr. Who”). He sticks toothbrushes in his ears because he’s not sure what else toothbrushes would be for.

And he comes to the attention of a nasty taxidermist, played by Nicole Kidman (who appears to be having a fun time). Why does this happen? The movie needed a story of some kind. Don’t get overly worried.

Director Paul King maintains the breezy tone and the human actors are likable. There are some notable steals from Wes Anderson’s “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” especially in the way Paddington scarfs up his beloved marmalade sandwiches, but it’s forgivable.

Paddington himself is an impressive creation, starting with Whishaw’s understated vocal performance. At this point in film technology, the seamlessness of how facial expressions and body language can be constructed is easily forgotten while you’re watching a film. But we should remind ourselves to be wowed. Even the marmalade sandwiches look convincing.

“Paddington” (3 stars)

A winningly bright and funny film about the beloved bear, rendered here in computer animation amid a live-action cast of humans (led by Hugh Bonneville and Nicole Kidman). The adventures are silly and Paddington (voiced by Ben Whishaw) is lovable as ever.

Rating: PG, for subject matter

Showing: Alderwood, Everett Stadium, Galaxy Monroe, Marysville, Pacific Place, Woodinville, Blue Fox Drive-In, Cascade Mall

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