95 minutes/Opens tomorrow/***1/2
The story: Based on Michael Bond's 1950s children's book series, this movie follows the life of a bear named Paddington (voiced by Ben Whishaw), who travels from his hometown of Darkest Peru to London in search of a new home. He is taken in temporarily by the kind Brown family (Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Madeleine Harris, Samuel Joslin), who set out trying to find a more permanent abode for him - hopefully before the sinister taxidermist Millicent gets to him first.
Finally, here is a family movie adaptation done right.
All too often, when classic children's picture book characters are brought to the big screen, they succumb to commercial movie studio interests and lose their original charm in the process.
Just look at most of the film adaptations of Dr. Seuss' books (2003's The Cat In The Hat, for example) or even the more recent Alexander And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, which all failed to translate the books' sensibilities to the cinema screen.
This film adaptation of Paddington, however, is heartwarming and sweet, and makes you feel as warm and fuzzy as the original 1950s stories by Bond did for so many children at the time.
Much credit is due to the quick-paced script, which, although geared towards younger kids, never dumbs itself down so completely that parents are left out.
Adults will especially appreciate the smattering of dry and very self-aware one-liners that the British are so adept at doling out.
When Paddington goes missing, for example, the Browns file a police report, describing him as a "bear in a blue duffel coat".
Even though he is probably the only bear roaming around the whole of London, the cop replies dully: "It's really not much to go on."
Admittedly, some of the hijinks that Paddington gets up to feel all too derivative: Breaking the toilet apart and flooding the house is a gag that has been done to death in numerous kiddie flicks.
But there is something so apologetic and utterly endearing about him - voiced to gentle, polite perfection by Whishaw - that you cannot help but be won over.
In the famous scene where he is discovered for the first time at the train station with the label, "Please look after this bear, thank you", all you want to do is to take him home for yourself.
And while he looks nowhere near as cute and cuddly as he is depicted in the picture books (in fact, he is a little creepily realistic here), this Paddington, with all his genuine warmth and natural curiosity for the world, feels more life-like and loveable than ever.
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