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Paddington (PG)
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This came out in 2014, but I didn't see it until 2018. It's based on a series of children's books that began in 1958, which have been adapted into TV series and films a number of times before this. I'm sure I must have been at least vaguely familiar with the character Paddington Bear ever since I was a little kid, but I really couldn't say for sure whether or not I ever actually read any of the books or saw any of the shows. So this movie is my first full-on exposure to the character. Nevertheless, the character has a certain nostalgic appeal, which carries over to the movie, even if less so for me than it probably does for people who are more familiar with the character.

The story begins with a British explorer in "Darkest Peru" discovering a previously unknown species of bears. (While most of the movie is live-action, the bears are all CGI.) He names two of them Lucy and Pastuzo, and finds that they are capable of learning to speak and understand English. He introduces them to marmalade, which they quite like. He also tells them that if they ever travel to England, they would be welcomed. And he gives Pastuzo his hat. I'm not sure exactly when this part of the story was set, but it's done in a black & white newsreel style, which put me in mind of the 1940s. Though the style of the explorer himself seemed even earlier to me.

Anyway, the story then flashes forward to "many years later." Lucy (voiced by Imelda Staunton) and Pastuzo (voiced by Michael Gambon) are raising their nephew (voiced by Ben Whishaw), whose parents died when he was very young. They make their own marmalade, and listen to old records about England. After getting to see a bit of their lifestyle in the jungle, there's an earthquake that apparently kills Pastuzo. So Lucy helps her nephew stow away on a lifeboat on a ship that's going to London. When he gets there, none of the people he tries to talk to have any interest in stopping to listen, let alone help him find a home. That is, until a woman named Mary Brown (Sally Hawkins) takes pity on him, and invites him to come stay with her family for the night, and promises to help him find a home later. Her husband, Henry (Hugh Bonneville), is not at all happy about this, but he reluctantly goes along with Mary's wishes. Their teenage daughter, Judy, just finds the whole situation embarrassing (as she finds pretty much everything about her family embarrassing). But their son, Jonathan, thinks it's cool to have befriended a bear. They also have a housekeeper named Mrs. Bird (Julie Walters), who I suppose you could say takes the situation in stride. And, since the young bear doesn't have an English name of his own (only one in bearish, which most humans would find unpronounceable), Mary names him Paddington, after the station where they found him.

Well, I suppose I found a lot of the early parts of the movie reasonably amusing, and Paddington likable enough, even if he unintentionally causes a lot of trouble. But I didn't think the movie was more than just mildly entertaining. However, it eventually became more interesting and entertaining, as Judy, and later Henry, came to like Paddington as much as Mary and Jonathan did. Also, there's a subplot that took a little while to really get going, wherein a woman who works at the Natural History Museum, Millicent Clyde (Nicole Kidman) finds out about Paddington, and becomes quite interested in finding him, for reasons I don't want to go into. She gets some help from one of the Brown's neighbors, Mr. Curry (Peter Capaldi), who doesn't like Paddington. He's eager to have Millicent get rid of Paddington, but he's obviously also attracted to Millicent, which makes it easy for her to manipulate him. Meanwhile, Mary tries to help Paddington find the explorer that his aunt and uncle had met many years ago, which is made more difficult because they never actually learned his name. And there is a further complication that I don't want to spoil, but it ties in to Millicent's nefarious interest in Paddington.

I guess that's all I want to reveal of the plot. But it turned out to be a fun movie, with a lot of heart as well as humor, and even some thrills. Oh, and occasionally a calypso band.

Followed by Paddington 2

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