The kids who compose the Twitter and Facebook feeds for various media sites declared writer/director Paul King’s Paddington a turkey long before it opened, based on star Colin Firth’s exit and early footage of the CGI bear they declared “creepy.” So much for criticism (and editorial oversight) in the Internet age.
Paddington is a delightful mélange that never overpowers – its mix of live action and animation recalls Mary Poppins, as does its affectionate send-up of Britishness (Hugh Bonneville, of Downton Abbey fame, fills the David Tomlinson role as beleaguered patriarch.) I watched the movie after seeing Chris Columbus’ first Harry Potter adaptation; comparing the two is a case study in what a director with real visual imagination brings to the table. Paddington is gorgeous like the best storybooks, and it doesn’t hedge its bets with snarky double entendres designed for accompanying adults. In that sense, it’s the best kind of “family entertainment” – its all-ages appeal is genuine and realized honestly.
To be sure, Paddington doesn’t deliver a cutting-edge social message (it settles for “family is what you say it is”, which, come to think of it, is a bit radical), and its Disney-esque throwback sensibility all but precludes the participation of nonwhites (and nonbears). So it’s not everything to everyone; still, I was delighted.