Paddington (2014)

(In French, Video on Demand, June 2015) Even without being overly familiar with the children-book source material, I can report that Paddington works well as a film: It’s an absolutely charming surprise.  Whimsical, sweet, good-natured and visually inventive, it manages to create a contemporary version of a walking-talking teddy bear without coming across as overly sweet or manipulative.  It’s a tricky balance, but the film pulls it off.  The special effects are good enough that at no time do viewers have any reason to question the existence of Paddington.  Ben Whishaw brings a lot to our ursine protagonist through his voice performance, while Sally Hawkins and Hugh Bonneville are instantly likable as the heads of the family that take in Paddington.  Nicole Kidman also makes an impression in a fairly rare role as an antagonist, although her evil character sometimes feel out-of-place in an otherwise good-natured film.  Writer/director Paul King should get most of the credit for the success of the film, not only for a charming screenplay, but also for visual flights of fancy that establish its unique atmosphere–the flybys through the cutaway Brown family home are a highlight, but several other sequences are executed in a remarkably original fashion.  Funny, heartwarming, instantly-accessible and a pure delight, Paddington should please anyone within sight of the screen it’s playing on.

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