In terms of movies with talking CGI animals, “Paddington” might just be the “Citizen Kane” of the genre.
Adapted from the beloved “Paddington Bear” children’s book series created by Michael Bond and illustrated by Peggy Fortnum, this unbearably (sorry) charming film brings the classic British character to the big screen with energy and humor, not to mention some stylistic filmmaking — clever angles, fun little effects and a cool newsreel-style opening. Speaking of which:
The film begins in the jungles of darkest Peru, where an explorer finds a couple of bears that aren’t just intelligent, but can speak. It’s an amazing discovery, and he spends time teaching them and introducing them to marmalade. He gives them English names and even his hat.
He leaves and the bears continue to live their fine British life in the jungle, raising their nephew (voiced by Ben Whishaw).
After a devastating disaster to their home, the young bear’s aunt sneaks him onto a ship to England to find a new home with the explorer. He arrives in England and is stranded in Paddington Station until he is taken in by the Brown family and given his very own English name.
The well-mannered bear gets into a series of mishaps and becomes the target of an evil taxidermist (Nicole Kidman).
“Paddington” follows some of the familiar tropes of the fish out of water, or a better analogy being bear out of jungle.
But this superb family film shines with a smart script and strong cast, including Hugh Bonneville (“Downton Abbey”) as the stuffy Mr. Brown and Sally Hawkins (“Blue Jasmine”) as the loving, wide-eyed Mrs. Brown. There’s also some fine guest spots from Peter Capaldi, Julie Walters and Jim Broadbent.