Paddington Nicole Kidman

Effective Effects and Casting

Obviously, Paddington himself is a huge special effect. This is a big effects movie. But the effect is used and treated like it’s not an effect, which makes it that much more, um, effective. There are probably only three or four instances in the film where Paddington isn’t acting like a normal person, which helps him become one with the story. So many movies spend all that money on an effect and feel the need to exploit it, but not in Paddington.

The character works even better because King has surrounded the bear with an absolutely amazing cast. We’ve already mentioned Ben Whishaw as Paddington. He’s very prim, proper and lovable, even without showing his face. His parents are voiced, in nothing more than a cameo, by Michael Gambon and Imelda Staunton. The Browns, Paddington’s would-be family, are lead by Broadbent and Hawkins, as previously mentioned. Their housekeeper is Julie Walters, the neighbor is Peter Capaldi, and their shopkeeper friend is Jim Broadbent. On top of that already stellar cast, Nicole Kidman plays the film’s villain, an evil taxidermist with her heart set on a new addition to her collection.

What these actors all have in common is that, in this little family movie, they could have gone crazy with their roles. They don’t. Maybe they’re a tad hyper realistic, but never enough to stand out or be distracting. Everything about their performances are grounded so that when there are moments of wonder, they pop off the screen. No one ever forgets this film is set in a realistic, if slightly off, time and place.

Paddington Julie Walters

Moments of Magic

What truly makes Paddington special is that, while it is a simple story with great characters and lots of serious moments, it can often break into moments of magic. Moments where you realize, yes, this is a realistic world but there’s a talking bear walking around. Moments of pure cinema. The way we’re truly introduced into the Brown family is absolutely lovely, and when Paddington finally learns more about the explorer at the beginning of the movie, the film pulls off an absolutely breathtaking transition into fantasy. In those moments, Paddington goes from really good movie to pretty damn fantastic movie. It’s also because the movie uses these moments sparingly, where other movies might have hammered you over your head with them.

Paddington 1

A Self-Contained, Happy Ending

Because Paddington is a family movie, it’s not a spoiler to say there’s a happy ending. It’s very sweet and appropriate to the film. But one more thing Paddington does right that other films don’t, is to tie a bow on the story. Yes, there could be more stories set in this world with these characters but it doesn’t have a huge set up for a sequel or anything. This is a movie, it’s over, and it’s so damn good you’ll want to share it with everyone you love.

/Film rating: 9 out of 10

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About the Author

Germain graduated NYU's Tisch School of the Arts Cinema Studies program in 2002 and won back to back First Place awards for film criticism from the New York State Associated Press in 2006 and 2007.