Paddington is that rare all-ages film without pandering or tired pop culture nods
Author Michael Bond’s tale of a rare, English-accented Peruvian bear shipped into a London family’s arms is capable of transferring to any media form. The best stories can always be shuffled around and readily adapted. That’s Paddington. This film, a charismatic adventure with lively comedic momentum from the opening frames, easily bolsters the character’s legacy.
Ornery yet friendly, Paddington’s wit is translated with his observant origins untouched. The figments of World War II immigration and adoptees remain. The work is timeless still. Paddington uses designs of an indistinct period as to not whittle its future appeal – current headphones, out of date landlines, and small general stores. The antics are permanently delightful, a fish-out-of-water odyssey dealing in wacky bathroom hijinks or misinterpreted signage.
Paddington is capable of working across borders.
Paddington is capable of working across borders.
The film is distinctively British. The wit, the puns, the cross-dressing, the dialect. And yet, as with its timelessness, Paddington is capable of working across borders. Likewise, the Brown family upheaval and togetherness which is earned from Paddington’s short upbringing is pure. Nicole Kidman’s soft villain, a sniveling museum taxidermist named Millicent, is an antagonist for any culture. Her fear of loss of tradition and changes to the neighborhood are universal as well – potentially seen as lightly prejudiced.
Here is what Paddington does not succumb to: pop culture references, toilet humor (even though it does involve a toilet), forced drama, or agitating propaganda. Paddington is forced from his home in darkest Peru due to a tremendous earthquake, a scenario ripe for updating with global warming or man-made connotations. Slip in a sorrowful pop song and suddenly Paddington has forced its will upon an audience. But it doesn’t. Temptation does not lead to egregious cinematic sin.
While relying on admittedly commonplace tropes and familiar plot ebbs, Paddington is able to appear fresh and wholly new. The character is thus invigorated, helped by Ben Whishaw’s warm voice work as the scruffy bear, and the Browns – Sally Hawkins, Hugh Bonneville, Julie Walters. Their pairing, as a unit, is exquisite. A slew of supporting actors are equally invested too.
What’s left is Paddington himself, a computer generated bear on a fraction of the budget compared to other “real life” cartoons – The Smurfs, notably – and he still emotes. He laughs. He’s sad. Even if the results are not completely convincing, they add the level of needed fantasy with the support of imagination. Paddington makes it up with enjoyable production design anyway, spiffing up the Brown’s home and creating a memorable Explorers Club visit. It’s all darling. So is the movie. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Movie]
Pleasing in fine color and contrast, Paddington is full of appealing images. Black levels create an attic home for the bear which produces attractive shadows, while the downstairs is heavily lit with saturated walls and décor. Primaries shine. The scenery is made to be alluring. Plop in a bear with a densely red hat and blue jacket to complete the imagery’s wealth of hues.
High fidelity definition is not necessarily rich outside of Paddington himself. Facial details are a touch muted, particularly on Kidman who appears to have been digitally softened. In close, the images are still pleasing on visible resolution. And yes, Paddington’s fur is wonderful, rendered cleanly down to individual strands. These are especially visible during his bath.
Texture makes its presence felt elsewhere, from coats and jackets to exterior shots. Jungle scenery is gorgeous. Into London, aerials are stunning in their detail and the small residential zone comes through as quaint. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Video]
DTS-HD powers the disc, opening with soft jungle ambiance – all manner of insects and birds – popping up in the rears. The disc’s moment of LFE power comes during the earthquake, a satisfying rumble which is not too powerful as to scare small kids but can still provide a jolt. A mild pressure “explosion” late has a nice burst effect too.
Other than music (with a clean bass line), Paddington is mostly dry sonically. A few spurts of action such as a flood will rush front to back. One chase scene pushes a few items into the stereos. By the museum finale, voices stretch in their echoes for a nice touch. Nicely done, without much force. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Audio]
Three extras prove only to be a wasteful letdown, serving their purpose as expanded trailers with interviews lasting less than three minutes each. The promo for a music video (and then the video itself) are longer than any insights into the making of the film. [xrr rating=2/5 label=Extras]
Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.