Such is “Paddington,” that rare family movie that the entire family can actually enjoy. It proudly wears its heart on its sleeve, is old-fashioned without being grating, and is so British that it has the Peter Capaldi, the current Doctor Who, playing a crusty old neighbor, and yeah, hanging around phone booths a lot.
He is unable to find the explorer, but luckily he runs into the Brown family, who offer to put him up for the night. Paddington quickly bonds with the wife (Sally Hawkins) and children, but less so with Mr. Brown (Hugh Bonneville), a risk analyst, who focuses far more on how the hilarious shenanigans that result will negatively affect them all. And he doesn't even know just how zany that search across London for the explorer will get.
But soon, danger lurks in the form of a taxidermist named Millicent (Nicole Kidman, who looks like she's having the time of her life) discovers Paddington has come to town, and plans to stuff and mount him in the museum where she works.
It's a delightful, fast-paced adventure that has a timeless quality to it, aided by all the sublimely retro technology, with barely a cell phone in sight. The schtick and effects add to the charm. The painting of a tree gains or loses leaves, depending on the mood. A dollhouse becomes a framing device for the family home. Add excellent pacing, creative and suspenseful action sequences that know just how to play audience reactions, and you have a new take on an old family classic that late and newcomers will both treasure.
And there's also much more to this seemingly simple tale than meets the eye. Because while no one seems to notice or care that Paddington is a talking bear, more than a few seem to notice that he's an immigrant. Capaldi is worried that he'll bring (ethnic) trouble to his nice suburban neighborhood, and helps Millicent in the hopes that she'll deport Paddington back to Peru. There's even incredibly tasteful references to World War II, and the journeys other children had to make when they were forced by events beyond their control to find new homes and families.
“Paddington” can't be called political by any means. Rather, it's more of an endorsement of decency, (remember, the last movie about a stuffed bear involved Seth MacFarlane, 'nuff said) and welcoming those in need with open arms and good urban values.