So, I really had no intention of going to see Paddington (PG, 2014), the comic film adaptation of the popular Paddington Bear children's books. But my wife and kids hadn't been out to the movies in a while and I thought, eh, what the heck.
Paddington is directed by Paul King, who has done nothing really notable other than some British television programs. Paddington is nothing exceptional, although my kids got a kick out of it and it was visually enjoyable to watch. There's not much to the plot; Paddington is a rare species of intelligent Peruvian bear who learns English manners and customs from the visit of a British explorer back in the 1930s. When his home is destroyed by an earthquake, Paddington sets out on a voyage to London to find the explorer and see Britain. Britain of the 21st century is quite different from how the explorer of the 1930's had described it, and he has a hard time fitting in. He is adopted by an overly safety-conscious family called the Browns and hilarity ensues as this relatively run-of-the-mill London family has to deal with housing a bear. Nicole Kidman provides the stock villain as a deranged taxidermist who is bent on turning Paddington into a museum exhibit.
Pretty straight forward plot. There's a lot of simple humor - bear tries to use the bathroom, bear floods the bathroom. Lots of "bear messing up everything it touches" sorts of humor as the Brown's nice middle class London home gets destroyed piecemeal. That sort of stuff is always good for a laugh. Nicole Kidman is kind of creepy as Mellicent Clyde the deranged taxidermist. My youngest child got somewhat frightened at her appearances.
There are a couple of other problematic items. In, Mr. Brown has to dress in drag in order to sneak into an office. He gets comically hit in by a security guard who doesn't realize Brown is not a woman. This is all funny enough, but unfortunately the innuendo gets taken just a little too far and becomes a little bit dirty.
There is also a dumb subplot about the preteen daughter having a romantic relationship with a boy at school. The mother and father, who are supposed to be excessively concerned about their children's' safety and prone to excessive parental control, seemingly have no problem allowing the daughter and her boyfriend to be alone in her bedroom together. This is obvious a morally compromising position - which is portrayed as "cool" - but it is also not even consistent with the film's portrayal of the family as excessively safety-conscious. Why would parents worried about threats to their children's safety allow their preteen daughter to be alone in her bedroom with her boyfriend? C'mon.
So, the film was moderately entertaining in a very simple way. Paddington is a very innocent and trusting character, which is good. It was also nice to see the family did not have any major dysfunction; I mean, there was the typical thing where kids think their parents are dorks and the parents don't trust their kids, but it was very mild. In light of all the films featuring divorced parents, dysfunctional families, kids with serious problems, etc., it was really nice to see the Browns were a fairly typical family. I also liked how the film highlighted the difference between the hospitality of Britain in the 1930's with the cold individualism of the 21st century. So these were certainly some positives.
I give this one a 1.5. Not horrible, but certainly could have been better.