'Paddington': What the Critics Are Saying

Ben Whishaw voices Michael Bond's beloved bear opposite Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Peter Capaldi and Nicole Kidman in Paul King's adaptation

After a notable debut across the Pond, Paddington is finally hitting the big screen in the U.S. on Jan. 16.

Starring Ben Whishaw, Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Peter Capaldi and Nicole Kidman, the Paul King-directed adaptation brings Michael Bond's beloved character to life as he leaves his destroyed hometown in Darkest Peru and finds himself cozying up to the Brown family in London.

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Read what top critics are saying about Paddington:

The Hollywood Reporter's Leslie Felperin calls it "quite charming, thoughtful and as cuddly as a plush toy, albeit one with a few modern gizmos thrown in. These include a contemporary (if decidedly retro) period setting, an extended narrative arc featuring an invented baddie to add tension, a right-on subtextual message about tolerance, and some winking jokes and allusions only grown-ups will get, like references to Wes Anderson films. All in all, it strikes a judicious balance between honoring the spirit of the original books and servicing the needs of the target demographic. Plus, there’s a scene where Paddington puts his head in a toilet and floods the bathroom. What’s not to like?"

King showcases "his ability to work with a broad palette here, in both emotional and technical terms. In between all the knockabout physical humor, there’s a palpable sense of sadness and loss, and a running theme about displacement." The cast altogether is "a bit hyped up and overacting just enough to make it fun," with Hawkins "whose casting is inspired here, stands out especially and brings a particular poignancy to the party, while Bonneville shows off a comic side he hasn’t been allowed to indulge enough. The 'acting' from Paddington himself, or rather the CGI animators at London’s Framestore, is subtle and expressive although some of the fur movement is a little computer-y. Whishaw's gentle tenor voice has such a touching fragility to it that one wonders how they ever thought anyone else could have done it better."

Time Out London's Dave Calhoun says, "This first-ever movie take on Peru’s furriest export is a cuddly, thoughtful triumph, but not too cuddly. ... It’s charmingly simple. But it also offers a sharp modern spin on Bond’s London-set stories without being cynical. For kids, it’s fun, fast and sweet. For adults, it’s a parable of immigration: the story of a big-eyed outsider having his hopeful dreams challenged by the realities of the British capital." While Kidman's evil character arc "rubs a little awkwardly against the earlier knockabout larks, ... it’s hard to criticise the plot for taking a turn towards the multiplex." And "visually, it’s as if the ultra lo-fi look of the 1970s TV version has been given a once-over by Anderson, and then given a polish by a more populist director."

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The Guardian's Xan Brooks, pointing out the film's idealized notions of England, says it's "as warm as an eiderdown and as fluffy as its feathers. ... Full credit to the film-makers, who manage to map their digital bear against his human co-stars and marry Bond’s antique conceit to a high-concept story. Paddington runs gamely through a heightened, picture-book London, stumbling on occasion through a mess of caffeinated, slapstick set-pieces, but keeping its head as it spirits us along for the ride."

The Telegraph's Robbie Collin writes that it's "every bit as sweet and charming as Bond’s original creation. ... a total delight, as warm and welcome as a hot pair of socks on a winter morning. It’s also enormously funny in an unmistakably British way: the overall effect is something like a Children’s Film Foundation adventure styled by Anderson and written by Peter Cook. ... Serious as Paddington is about meaning something, it’s even more serious about the business of having fun."

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