This delightful film is based on the much loved Paddington books written by British author Michael Bond, now 88 years old. Bond wrote A Bear Called Paddington in 1958. His 15 Paddington books have sold over 35 million copies and been published in nearly 20 countries in over 40 languages. The film is written and directed by Paul King and blends live action with animated technology. It begins with a flash-back forty years ago where we meet Montgomery Clyde, an explorer from the Geographers Guild in London who has travelled to the Peruvian jungle to bring back animals to be stuffed for the Museum of Natural History. He comes across two bears, who we learn later are Uncle Pastuzo and Aunt Lucy. But rather than shooting these bears that he discovers can talk to him, he instead befriends them, introduces them to marmalade and gives them a phonograph and a snow globe of London. He tells them that if they should ever come to London that they would find a home there.
Fast forward forty years, we see Uncle Pastuzo and Aunt Lucy raising a young bear whose parents have died. The young bear (voiced by Ben Whishaw), is very likeable, but he’s also very clumsy, which is played for laughs throughout the film. After Uncle Pastuzo dies in an earthquake and their home is destroyed, Aunt Lucy sends her adopted nephew to London to find a home, while she goes to the Home for Retired Bears.
At Paddington Station the young bear comes across the Brown family returning from a trip. Mr. Brown (Hugh Bonneville from Downton Abbey) tries to pass by the young bear, but Mrs. Brown (Sally Hawkins) takes pity on him and they bring him to their home for “just one night”. Mrs. Brown is also the one to gives him the name Paddington, since his bear name is too hard to pronounce. We see Paddington’s clumsiness on full display in a hilarious scene during that first night in the Brown home.
Eventually the family learns to love Paddington and they help him find the explorer that visited “deepest, darkest Peru” forty years ago. But there is someone who wants to do to Paddington what the explorer set out to do forty years before in the Peruvian jungle. The explorer’s daughter Millicent (played by Nicole Kidman), is now an evil taxidermist at the Museum of Natural History. She partners with one of the Brown’s neighbors, Mr. Curry, played by Peter Capaldi, to try to capture and then stuff Paddington for the museum.
The Brown’s children are portrayed by Samuel Joslin (Jonathan) and Madeleine Harris (Judy). Julie Bird plays their housekeeper Mrs. Bird.
This was a funny and well made film, with a good cast, that we thoroughly enjoyed. It includes strong messages about the importance of family and also messages about diversity, as Mrs. Brown states to Paddington “In London, everyone is different, so anyone can fit in.” It is a film that the entire family can go to and enjoy, and not worry about any objectionable content.