This is a must-see movie for kids. Particularly any kid, old or young, who has ever been lost. Been the new kid. Been alone. Been orphaned.
For children, the movie is light hearted, sweet and humorous with a bit of adventure. Parents will appreciate all of that, plus the elements of the message and the artistry found within the film. It is all-around quality, worthy of the ticket price. My 9 year-old son loved it, so it is not limited to small children. I loved it, too. And now I want a polite talking bear with a British accent of my own.
Since the books have been out since 1958, it’s not a spoiler to say that Paddington ends up living with the Brown family and that this story is the journey to finding family. The Browns find him at The Paddington train station after his long stowaway journey from Darkest Peru. His Aunt Lucy has assured him that someone will find him and give him a home, and it is this optimism that keeps Paddington going even though the Browns initially try to push him away. I mean who could blame them. He did ride down their staircase in a tub in a flood of water.
Keeping true to the books, Paddington is a polite talking bear who loves marmalade and finds his way into mishaps despite his best intentions. The advice from his uncle to “always keep a marmalade sandwich in your hat for emergencies” is well played throughout the movie with some pesky pigeons. It was fun to see the Earl of Grantham (Hugh Bonneville from Downton Abbey) as the uptight dad who needed a little loosening up. The nasty villain is played by Nicole Kidman who somehow manages to hide her hair in a short bleached blonde bobbed wig. Why do the snotty villains need to be blonde? I protest that stereotype!
The bear character is computer generated and interacts seamlessly with the characters and the setting. He seemed real enough to me and was in his own right a good character. It was definitely a welcomed break from the animated films which at this point run together in my memory. It’s evident to me that filmmakers intentionally went above and beyond with creativity. If you look closely you will see the magical touches that warm the movie and make it special.
Look for the color red to be a character too. It brings vibrance, life and beauty from one end of the film to the other.
In addition to the reference to an Encyclopedia and a scene with Phone Books, there is another bit of bittersweet history in this film. The tag that Paddington wears around his neck that reads Please Look After This Bear is intentional by the book’s author, Michael Bond. It’s an homage to the orphaned children in Europe who during WWII came to England on trains wearing numbers around their necks.
Kindertransport was the informal name for the rescue effort that brought thousands of refugee Jewish children to Great Britain from Nazi Germany between 1938 and 1940. Due to public opinion, British authorities agreed to permit an unspecified number of children under the age of 17 to enter Great Britain from Germany and German-annexed territories (namely, Austria and the Czech lands). Families came to foster these children during the war and many ended up moving to America or Israel when they came of age.
Another message of the film, and I’m not sure if it’s intentional or not, is a strong message about ADOPTION. Paddington is from a faraway land because his home is destroyed and comes to be in a new country with a very different culture. Paddington needs not only a family to care for him, but people who will show him the way. We see the father unwilling to disrupt their family life. We see a mother struggle with her nurturing heart. We see kids who grow to love this new and different friend as he fills their hearts with love and a sense of adventure. In fact, the whole family has a spark of life injected into it when Paddington enters into their home. Despite the issues that occur with opening one’s home to a stranger, in the end they all realize that their lives will never be the same without each other.
The films ends with a dramatic scene on the roof of London’s Museum of Natural History. Mr. Brown declares loudly that because they love him, they are family.
And that my friend is the moral of the story for the movie. And the moral for life for us all. Love is Family. And Family is Love.
GoodLiving Magazine is printed six times a year for families in Pinellas County, Florida, home to municipalities including Clearwater, Tarpon Springs, Dunedin, Largo and St. Petersburg. The densest county in Florida, population is near 1 Million people. Past issues are available for viewing digitally on the website.
As an advocate for children and families, Pamela Settle serves as the local committee chairperson for The Children’s Movement of Florida, a non-partisan advocacy organization that works on behalf of the well being of children throughout the State of Florida.