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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

Paddington movie review: please look in on this movie, thank you

Paddington green light

MaryAnn’s quick take…
Adorable. So witty and compassionate and bittersweet and just the right little bit of snarky that you will cry tears of joy from the perfection of it.
I’m “biast” (pro): love the cast
I’m “biast” (con): was worried about CGI creepiness
I have read the source material (and I am indifferent about it)
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

So, a small brown illegal immigrant — he doesn’t even have a passport — sneaks over the border into the United Kingdom… and is instantly welcomed into the home of a quintessentially English family in London, complete with a kooky elderly kinswoman of unspecified relation and a house that is the epitome of storybook chic.

And it is adorable.


Paddington is, in fact, so cute and witty and compassionate and bittersweet and just the right little bit of snarky and positively downright altruistic that you will cry tears of joy from the perfection of it.

This movie is UKIP’s biggest nightmare. Indoctrinating the kiddies to look kindly upon illegal immigrants? What is the world coming to?!

(For the benefit of my non-U.K. readers, UKIP is the reactionary, isolationist, anti-immigrant political party led by a dangerous, Roderick Spode-ish buffoon that is, alarmingly, gathering some momentum on the national stage. The Fox News demographic in the U.S. would love UKIP, if UKIP wasn’t suspiciously foreign.)

Now, I have no real childhood emotional attachment to the bear called Paddington: we had some of the books around when I was a kid but I don’t recall any tremendous love for them. And I was more than a little worried about the potential for CGI creepiness in dropping a cartoon talking animal into a movie that is otherwise live action. (It’s okay for Gollum to be creepy, but not a marmalade-loving ursine of childlike naiveté and wonder.) But while, as a technical achievement, Paddington is nothing less than a triumph, what completely won me over was the film’s gentle, effortless charm. Ben Whishaw (Lilting, The Zero Theorem) gets Paddington’s voice just right, and the movie wouldn’t have worked without the absolutely correct actor bringing him to life. Yet it also wouldn’t have worked without the perfect balance of fantasy and silliness buoying the whole endeavor, either. Screenwriter and director Paul King finds that perfect balance: the talking bear from Darkest Peru may be a novelty in a big, cosmopolitan city, but he is accepted by one and all… even by the villain, Nicole Kidman’s (Before I Go to Sleep, Grace of Monaco) evil taxidermist, who wants to catch Paddington and stuff him, naturally.

The crux of the tale revolves not only around Paddington’s attempts to get comfortable in a “strange cold city” that is not as welcoming as he expected it to be, but also around Mr. Brown (Hugh Bonneville: Muppets Most Wanted, The Monuments Men), stodgy patriarch of the family who takes him in, to learn how to relax a little and not worry so much about having a rambunctious bear around the house. (Mrs. Brown, aka Sally Hawkins [Godzilla, The Double] in full-on manic pixie dream mom Sally Hawkins mode, will have something to do with this.) But there’s a huge dollop of social satire happening as well, sending up both harmless British quirks — Paddington learns how to talk about the rain in London — and some of the more insidious ones: there is gentle, and very funny, skewering of British colonial attitudes via Paddington’s search for the English explorer who once visited Darkest Peru and introduced his family to the joys of marmalade.

King also drops in a slew of tiny details that make for a rich cinematic environment that will reward multiple viewings. I’m sure I missed tons of them, but the ones I did notice — the “foot of the stairs”; the ominous posters in the Tube station during Paddington’s trepidatious first foray on mass transit — make me keen to see what else I can find.

Oh, and there’s also some heartstopping peril. Seriously, I cannot recall the last time I held my breath worrying about a character onscreen like this. And certainly not over a CGI bear.

Are you sold yet? No? The cast is an Anglophile’s dream, and also features Peter Capaldi (Doctor Who, The Fifth Estate) as the Browns’ mean neighbor; Julie Walters (Brave, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2) as the kooky aunt-like Brown, Jim Broadbent (Le Week-end, Cloud Atlas) as an antiques dealer who helps Paddington in his quest to find the explorer, and Michael Gambon (Quartet, The King’s Speech) and Imelda Staunton (Maleficent, Pride) as the voices of Paddington’s aunt and uncle back in Darkest Peru.

This is sheer hilarious delight. Do not miss it. You don’t even need to bring a kid with you.

See also my #WhereAreTheWomen rating of Paddington for its representation of girls and women.

see also:
Paddington 2 movie review: wrap yourself up in this bear hug

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Paddington (2014) | directed by Paul King
US/Can release: Jan 16 2015
UK/Ire release: Nov 28 2014

Flick Filosopher Real Rating: rated BNMG (contains bear nudity and marmalade gore)
MPAA: rated PG for mild action and rude humor
BBFC: rated PG (dangerous behaviour, mild threat, innuendo, infrequent mild bad language)

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, please reconsider.

  • Jim Mann

    I don’t understand why they’re waiting till January to open this in the US. It looks like it would be a great movie to take kids (like my nephew and niece) to over Christmas break.

  • bronxbee

    hmmm. i am rather happy to hear this — as i find CGI bears (i’m looking at *you* Snuggles — ick!) RATHER disturbing. and also don’t have any real strong feelings for the books.

  • Matt Clayton

    Too many family movies vying for Christmas dollars this year — “Annie”, “Big Hero 6” and “Penguins of Madagascar”. TWC was wise to move it back.

  • Tonio Kruger

    Are there bears in Peru?

    Oh, wait, there are:


    But they don’t quite look like Paddington.

    (Then again most people don’t expect realism from this type of movie anyway. )

  • Constable

    You’d be surprised, I had a friend who wouldn’t watch “How to Train your Dragon 2” because “the surface area of their wings isn’t sufficient to facilitate flight.” That’s not how he said it, but it might as well be.

  • Overflight

    “…even by the villain, Nicole Kidman’s (Before I Go to Sleep, Grace of Monaco) evil taxidermist, who wants to catch Paddington and stuff him, naturally.”
    This is what bugged me about the trailer: Nicole Kidman literally whispers “…a talking bear…” in awe…and she wants to KILL AND STUFF him? She doesn’t want to go with the usual cliché of turning him into a tourist attraction so she does something a million times more stupid? That’s like Stromboli deciding to skip the whole musical act business and going straight to chopping Pinocchio up for firewood!

    …and now because of that coupled with the infamous “Creepy Paddington” meme, I’m imagining Paddington singing “I’ve Got No Strings” in James Spader’s voice. My mind goes to weird places.

  • I suspect Matt is correct: Christmas is *very* crowded this year in the US.

  • She has good villainous reasons for wanting to catch and stuff Paddington… one that ties in with the skewering of colonialism motif.

    And she’s not whispering “A talking bear…” for the reason you think she is. :-)

  • Alex McLeish

    ‘alarmingly, gathering some momentum on the national stage. ‘

    Their popularity may have something to do with the Pakistani rape gangs and child groomers who have run rampant in places like Rotherham and Rochdale over the last few decades, and the cover ups by elected Labour Party councillors who conspired to silence the victims. Those 1400 young girls from Rotherham have probably had enough ‘cultural enrichment’ to last them for several lifetimes over.

  • Indeed. And the historical pedophile rape rings among entertainers and politicians is what accounts for the hue and cry to deport all white men.

    Oh, wait…

  • Bluejay

    Ooh, you’re getting UK-specific bigots now. Movin’ on up! :-)

  • If this is actually good, then why is the trailer I saw so ridiculously bad? It makes it look like a silly series of stupid clumsiness and nonsense. The trailer made me hate the bear.
    I think I’m not the target for this no matter how good it may be. Maybe I’ll watch it if it ever pops up on Netflix.

  • Trailers are designed to appeal to what the marketers think audiences want to see. That’s it. Trailers often don’t bear much resemblance to the actual film.

  • Bluejay

    Here is the trailer for Frozen, which gives the impression that it’s REALLY heavy on the slapstick and snark, with the snowman as the main character, no hint of Elsa’s struggle, and no hint whatsoever that it’s a musical. This is why I try not to judge movies by their trailers alone. And if a film critic I trust says a movie is worth checking out, I’d give more weight to her review than to a crappy trailer.

  • Danielm80

    And the trailer for The Matrix Reloaded made it look absolutely spectacular. But the U.S. trailer for Paddington isn’t just bad. It almost made me want to stop watching movies altogether. It achieves a level of awfulness that hasn’t been seen since…well, the trailer for Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Day.

  • Frozen is good, but overrated. I hated that stupid snowman.

    Of course I don’t judge a full movie by it’s trailer, as I’m well aware of what they are doing with them. The trailer for Paddington tells me that they have no confidence in the actual story, or the movie simply being good. That’s too bad.
    I can’t tolerate anything like what I saw in the trailer. I’ll assume scenes like that are in the movie, but are a minor distraction from a better overall film. Regardless, like I said above, I’,m not the audience for this no matter how good it is.

    It’s kind of like if Annie somehow ended up being the greatest movie ever. I still wouldn’t go near it with a ten foot pole. The trailers for that are terrible as well, but somehow I imagine the movie won’t be much better. That song alone…UGH.
    All this being said: I never thought I’d be the audience for a movie like Rush, but I just watched it Wednesday night and loved it. I don’t recall how good the trailers for it were, so I can’t compare and contrast to the above.

  • Bluejay

    It’s kind of like if Annie somehow ended up being the greatest movie ever. I still wouldn’t go near it with a ten foot pole.

    If something turns out to be the greatest movie ever, why wouldn’t you go near it with a ten-foot pole?

    I’m not the audience for this no matter how good it is… All this being said: I never thought I’d be the audience for a movie like Rush, but I just watched it Wednesday night and loved it.

    You realize you’re just undermining your own position and making a pretty good argument for open-mindedness, right? :-)

  • RogerBW

    Trailers often seem to me to be aimed at nice simple reassuring categories. This is an action film. That is a romantic comedy. This one came over to me as “grossout comedy meets manic pixie dream bear”; I’m glad to hear it’s better than that.

  • Alex McLeish

    That isn’t relevant.

    You wondered why UKIP are getting so much support, and I replied by pointing out that the antics of Pakistani rape gangs, covered up and sometimes abetted by left-wing progressives, have boosted UKIP’s support amongst white working class folk.

    You can scream ‘Jimmy Saville! Jimmy Saville!’ and indulge in as much whataboutery as you like, but that won’t change the minds of English folk who are sick to the back teeth of this London-enforced policy of mass immigration and multiculturalism that is becoming a scourge upon the lives of Engish folk everywhere. Neither will it change UKIP’s percentage in the polls.

  • Alex McLeish

    Please keep the insults and sneers coming! They’re like gold dust to UKIP!

  • Bluejay

    Not insults, just accurate descriptions.

  • I don’t wonder why UKIP gets support. I know why: People are irrational and racist, and opportunist politicians play on their fears.

  • Stop it. You want to flag-wave for UKIP, go do it somewhere else.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Truly the mark of a serious political movement.

  • lawrence nicky

    I’ve watched this film, and this film is very good,

    I’ve seen it in


    even I had to download it there.

    I am sure you and your family will love this film,

    because this film is the best film I’ve ever watched,

    congratulations watch this film is very good

  • Beowulf

    My wife and I just saw it (we didn’t rent kids; we’re brave) and thought it a hoot. I was about to ask about “The bottom of the stairs”……..is that a turn-about on “The top of the Stairs”? Loved the palace guard hiding tall stuff under his hat. Lots of funny snarky bits for us (very senior) adults.

  • It’s not “the bottom of the stairs.” It’s “the foot of the stairs.” There’s a realistic-looking sculpture of a human foot at the base of the staircase.

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