Movies: Live-action "Paddington" works surprisingly well

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

The new live-action “Paddington” movie lives dangerously close to the “uncanny valley,” a term that describes that moment where not-quite-natural presentations tip the scale toward creepy.

But once you settle past the CGI presentation of the beloved British bear, a truly enjoyable, funny and kid-friendly flick emerges.

After a fire claims his home in the Peruvian rain forest, a young bear named Paddington (voiced by Ben Whishaw) travels to London in hopes of finding a home. (Hey, it’s a classic story. Just roll with it.)

Paddington is eventually adopted by the Brown family — though begrudgingly by the family patriarch (Hugh Bonneville). Hilarity ensues.

Pulling off a photorealistic talking CGI bear movie is no easy task — there are plenty of terrible talking animal movies that can attest to this — but “Paddington” is warm and winning and earnestly British.

It also assembles an above-average cast, even with a slight star-power downgrade when Bonneville replaced original Mr. Brown, Colin Firth. I always love seeing Sally Hawkins (“Happy Go-Lucky”), and she offsets Mr. Brown’s sternness. Peter Capaldi (“Doctor Who”) pops up, as do a few “Harry Potter” alumni in voice (Michael Gambon, Imelda Staunton) and in person (Jim Broadbent). Nicole Kidman’s delightfully cruel villain is the cherry on top.

The physical comedy of Paddington’s typically bumbling adventures works just fine on-screen. File “Paddington” as the most pleasant surprise of the new year.


Opens Friday

3 stars out of 4