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IN SHORT: Not just another Best of the Year, which it is. It is a perfect movie [Rated PG for mild action and rude humor. 95 minutes]
Depending on your generation you have either played with Paddington Bear dolls; watched Paddington Bear 'toons; read, or had read to you, any of the multitude of Paddington Bear stories. Even if you are an old fart like Cranky, and let child bearing get away from you, you are as aware of Paddington Bear as you are of Winnie the Pooh. So let's pass on the story summary and get right to the point:
If you have a family, you are going to go. Toddlers and adolescents are going to have a blast. The grumpy pre-teens are going to complain about going to a baby-movie but they'll get sucked into a terrifically accessibe story that works for all ages. Grown ups sitting in the back row will get to see one of the best movies ever made.
Film student geeks smirking at that last sentence will have to pick their jaws up off the floor when all is said and done. You don't have to tell us we were right, either.
If you are a stoner, hey, talking bear. Got to be funny, right? Then, when you're well buzzed and the story starts to catch your attention ... this is assuming you haven't nodded off ... you will find yourself obsessively drawn into the story in a way that only the stoned can know. Just try to keep your mouths shut in the theater (eventually you'll go through the DVD many times).
Adults, or paired up/ dating adults may dismiss Paddington out of hand, as something for little kids. Well, that's what Cranky expected when he sat for the film, roughly the 275th film screened in 2014. When that screening was finished, had the releasing studio pushed the film out in 2014, it would have made our lists as Best Animated film, would have landed a screenplay award and would have been a contender for Best Movie of the Year. But the film isn't being released until (now, early in 2015) so all of that may be out the window.
Dating teens? Guys will take their dates to a "girl movie" and, if repulsed when they make the move, will have to watch the onscreen story. Once they start paying attention, well, I think I've made my point.
Out there is some fourteen year old (or so) that just hates everything just because. He is beyond hope, just because. We may be effusive and enthusiastic but we're not stoopid.
For those that insist on knowing: According to the faux newsreel footage that begins Paddington, sometime in the 1930s an unnamed explorer [eventually revealed as Montgomery Clyde (Tim Downie)] ventures into the deepest, darkest depths of Peruvian forests. His well funded expedition carries its own piano and gramophone, to get through the long dark nights, of course. Luck beyond luck, Montgomery discovers a species of animal that looks like a bear yet behaves almost like a human. Two of the creatures, called Uncle Pastuzo (Ben Whishaw) and Aunt Lucy (Imelda Staunton) stand out. Once Clyde has returned to England, saying "you'll always be welcome in London with me!" they learn to speak (thanks to gramaphone recordings) and play instruments. They pass this knowledge to their nephew (Ben Whishaw) and, forty years later, Lucy and Pastuzo retire.
With a label around his neck that reads "Please look after this bear. Thank you," the nephew stows away on a ship and heads for London, in search of the unnamed explorer. Do you remember what the said explorer promised? Bear discovers t'ain't so. But he is befriended by a family named Brown -- kidlets Judy and Jonathan (Madeleine Harris and Samuel Joslin) love the Bear. Mrs. Brown (Sally Hawkins) loves her children and will tolerate the Bear and Mr. Brown (Hugh Bonneville) despises the creature and is determined to turn it over to the authorities; the Head of Geographer's Guild (Geoffrey Palmer) the very next day. The Bear also acquires a name, Paddington and an enemy. She is the daughter of the explorerer, a taxidermist named Millicent Clyde (Nicole Kidman).
That's too much of a hint. We will report that all of Paddington's adventures in London work as set pieces and as part of the overall story. That what happens in the beginning of the film will affect events in the middle and the end. That all of the minor characters including an annoying neighbor, Mr. Curry (Peter Capaldi) have complete story arcs, too. In the grand scheme of things, the Paddington screenplay does everything that a screenplay is supposed to do, as those who have been instructed will recognize. That the film is as entertaining as all get out is more than a bonus. It is a perfect movie.
We normally give family friendly films a simple thumbs up/ thumbs down rating. Not in this case.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Paddington, he would have paid . . .
We watched it twice. Had to bend over backwards to get to that second screening. Yeah, we thought Paddington was that good.
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