When the first promotional still of “Paddington” broke back in June, the consensus was loud and clear: Get that creepy thing away from me. A meme was born as Michael Bond’s beloved children’s story character went from “awww” to “aaaaah!,” and original voice actor Colin Firth departure signaled possible issues with the film (he was replaced by Ben Whishaw). The film’s trailers didn’t much dispel the any of the doubts people had about the project, nor did the push of the film’s U.S. release date to January.
Well it looks like all of the worries about the film were for naught, as early reviews for “Paddington” out of the UK suggest that it’s delightful. Critics have praised director Paul King’s work has been hailed for its warm-heartedness and playful sense of humor (complete with Wes Anderson references!), and Whishaw’s charming performance is described as a perfect fit for the titular bear. Perhaps January moviegoing doesn’t have to be so bad after all.
“Paddington” arrives in theaters in the U.K. on November 28, and in the U.S. on January 16.
Mark Adams, Screen International
The much-loved British children’s book character Paddington Bear makes a smooth transition to the big screen in this delightfully entertaining family that has charm, fun and a glossy sense of adventure to spare. While resolutely British in tone, humour and casting it’s sheer sense of warm-hearted exuberance could well see it also click with international audiences, especially those aware of the comical misadventures of this little bear…after all, the books have sold more than 35 million copies and been translated into 40 languages. Read more.
Xan Brooks, The Guardian
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. Is it a problem that the film’s tone amounts to a cherry-picked jumble of second-hand elements (the script raids “101 Dalmatians,” while the stylised tableaux tip a hat to Wes Anderson)? Possibly not; it only chimes with the message of inclusivity. Read more.
Robbie Collin, The Telegraph
Here’s the good news: the new version of Paddington, brought beautifully to life by Ben Whishaw and the digital artists at the visual effects house Framestore, is every bit as sweet and charming as Bond’s original creation. (With respect to Colin Firth, who left the role in June after it was decided he wasn’t quite right for it, Whishaw’s hot-tea-and-honey voice is so ideal that it’s impossible to imagine anyone else ever being considered.) Read more.
Leslie Felperin, The Hollywood Reporter
It’s a relief to report that the final film is actually 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 (played by Nicole Kidman, as the aforementioned taxidermist) 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? Read more.
56 years after first appearing in print, the accident-prone Peruvian furball is brought to high-tech but thoroughly endearing life in this bright, breezy and oh-so-British family romp from writer-director Paul King and super-producer David Heyman. Affectionately honoring the everyday quirks of Bond’s stories, while subtly updating their middle-class London milieu, King’s film may divide loyal Paddingtophiles with its high-stakes caper plot, but their enraptured kids won’t care a whit. If Paddington’s signature line — “I think I’m in trouble again” — is absent from his feature-length debut, that’s because even the fretful bear should feel bullish about its prospects. Read more.