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Feature


A young Peruvian bear travels to London in search of a home. Finding himself lost and alone, he begins to realize that city life is not all he had imagined until he meets the kindly Brown family (Hugh Bonneville and Sally Hawkins), who take him home after reading the label around his neck. It looks as though his luck has changed until this rare talking bear catches the eye of Millicent (Nicole Kidman), a museum taxidermist. (From Anchor Bay/TWC-Dimension’s official synopsis)

 Paddington
When I was a child, my family would have dinner with my grandparents every Sunday. One such visit occurred after Papa and Grandma had returned from the UK and I was told they had brought back a ‘friend.’ I was instructed to walk to the stairs, where a teddy bear sporting a blue rain slicker and red hat was waiting for me. This was my introduction to Paddington Bear and, soon after, Michael Bond’s stories. Sickeningly saccharine anecdote aside, I remember very, very little about these books (I ended up being more of a Babar kid) and, based on the ‘pedigree’ of live-action/cartoon hybrids, like Garfield and The Smurfs, I had extremely low expectations for Paul King’s Paddington movie.

Had I paid closer attention to who Paul King is, I probably would’ve been ready for a good time. It turns out that he is one of the many talented weirdos behind British absurdist TV shows, including Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace and The Mighty Boosh. I missed his feature debut, Bunny and the Bull, entirely, but it was made in the good company of his Darkplace and Boosh buddies. Co-writer Hamish McColl’s filmography isn’t as interesting, as it includes Rowan Atkinson ‘comedies’ Johnny English Reborn and Mr. Bean’s Holiday, but there’s nothing to imply that he could ruin the production.

 Paddington
Though I barely recall the plot of the book, I do recall the tone, which is quite gentile, gentle, and appropriately, old-timey British. King and McColl are tasked with making Paddington modern (a good choice, in my opinion), without robbing the story of its essential tonal ingredients. This is both the film’s biggest problem and substantial blessing. There is so much going on so quickly that it is at times difficult to connect with the film on a deeper emotional level than ‘Aw, cute,’ but the frantic pace and frenetic content are often impossible to resist. There are plainly stated messages concerning immigration policies, the regressive nature of British aristocracy, and the importance of not over-protecting children, but the basic plot and character elements are secondary to rapid-fire jokes. It’s a lark and a pretty good one.

King keeps the Darkplace and Boosh oddness at a minimum for the sake of mainstream appeal, while still texturing the proceedings with pleasantly unpredictable little additions. McColl’s experience with Rowan Atkinson movies proves to be more precarious than anticipated, because it demands an awful lot of screen time and Paddington’s clumsiness isn’t particularly funny. Fortunately, King takes more inspiration from Wes Anderson’s brand of cartoonish dry wit and dynamic filmmaking inflection through hyper-decorative, timeless sets, fourth-wall-breaking motifs, and an all-star cast that acts largely in a cameo capacity, as well as the inventive punch inherent in Peter Lord and Nick Park’s stop-motion animated productions. The film works most beautifully when it slows down and allows the audience to enjoy its quirky charms, but is too often stifled by elaborate set-pieces. The spiraling digital cinematography is a bit exhausting, recalling those icky digital animation/live-action hybrids I previously mentioned and doesn’t quite fit the otherwise pleasantly pastel, physically-anchored imagery. Still, Paddington himself is a convincing physical presence. I was never once pulled out of the film by the realization that I was looking at an elaborate special effect.

 Paddington

Video


Paddington was shot using Arri Alexa Studio and XT digital HD cameras and is presented here in 2.35:1, 1080p video. The digital clarity is perfectly sharp, including front-to-back textural complexity, and dynamic range is rich. It often looks like real film, minus the additional texture of grain (though there is still plenty of fine noise in the darkest shots). Even the extensive colour-grading appears chemical in nature. King and cinematographer Erik Wilson revel in colour by separating locations and times of day by palette. The jungle is beaming with yellow and green. The city by day is clean and steely blue. Night external images and darker interiors are rich with reds, golds, and deep greens – much like a Jean-Pierre Jeunet film. The colours bounce beautifully and cut crisply with only the tiniest hints of compression artefacts. The blending patterns are graded, instead of being eerily smoothed over, like many digital productions, but banding effects are minimal.

Audio


Paddington is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound. The mix is busy and eclectic without overwhelming the speakers like more typically action-heavy affairs. Scenes like the jungle earthquake that sets off the plot, Paddington’s accidental high speed pursuit of a pickpocket, and the climatic battle against Millicent all meet the LFE-rumbling, directionally-enhanced expectations of a modern effects movie. Dialogue is clean and consistent between digital and real-life characters. The more ambient sound is limited and often replaced by Nick Urata’s bouncy and busy musical score. The symphonic stuff is set nicely alongside Caribbean jazz from a group called D Lime, featuring Tabago Crusoe, as well as pop-music entries from the likes of Steppenwolf, James Brown, and Lionel Richie.

 Paddington

Extras


  • Meet the Characters (2:20, HD) – A fluffy rundown of the cast
  • When a Bear Comes to Stay (1:50, HD) – A look at the films slapstick comedy
  • From Page to Screen (3:00, HD) – A slightly more substantial look at adapting the look of the books to the movie
  • “Shine” Lyric Music Video written by Gwen Stefani & Pharrell (1:30, HD)
  • The Making of "Shine" with Gwen Stefani & Pharrell (4:20, HD)


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Overall


Paddington is a perfectly pleasant family film that doesn’t insult children, won’t bore parents, and doesn’t tread on the source material. It’s also going to be hard to remember anything about it tomorrow, so I suppose its appeal is fleeting. This Blu-ray release looks gorgeous (next to perfect, in fact) and sounds clean, but the extras are standard-issue EPK junk.

 Paddington

Paddington
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.


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