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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Paddington is based on the classic children's book by Michael Bond, A Bear Called Paddington. After an earthquake destroys Paddington's home and kills his uncle, the orphan bear (voiced by Ben Whishaw) stows away alone on a ship with only his red hat, beat-up suitcase, and jars of marmalade with him in the hopes that someone will help him once he gets to London. The idea of him taking the journey on his own might worry some children, but he's quickly taken in by the Brown family. Paddington gets into some dangerous mischief -- which might delight some kids and scare/upset others -- including flooding a bathroom, chasing a pickpocket, fleeing a fire, and eventually being kidnapped by a cruel, cold taxidermist (Nicole Kidman), who wields a dart gun and sharp implements. The Browns' aunt helps rescue Paddington by doing shots of whisky with a security guard until they're both drunk, and there's a gross-out scene in which Paddington cleans out his ears. Expect some flirting, a passionate kiss between the Browns, and language along the lines of "good lord" and "shut your pie hole." But Paddington is very sweet, polite, and good intentioned, and the Brown family is adorably imperfect. Paddington is charming in many ways and touching in others.
What's the story?
At the start of PADDINGTON, an English explorer discovers a family of bears in "Darkest Peru" and tells them to look him up if they ever get to London. Decades later, an earthquake destroys the bears' village and kills a young bear's uncle. His aunt stows him away on a boat with only his red hat (with a sandwich in it), a suitcase, and jars of marmalade. He meets the suspicious Mr. Brown, the kindhearted Mrs. Brown (Sally Hawkins), and their two kids at the Paddington train station. So they name him Paddington, and the daring search for the explorer begins. What they don't know is that an evil taxidermist (Nicole Kidman) is after Paddington ...
Is it any good?
This is a delightful film version of the beloved book by Michael Bond. It opens with newsreel footage of the explorer discovering the lost tribe of bears, and then the sweet, polite Paddington (voiced by Ben Whishaw) is sent off after the tragedy that leaves him an orphan, happily finding his new family in London. Bonneville is good as the exasperated and overprotective dad, and Hawkins is adorable as the loving artist mother who takes to Paddington right away.
Paddington takes kids on a fun adventure while also touching on bigger issues. There's a nice moment when Mrs. Brown takes Paddington to see antiques dealer Mr. Gruber (Jim Broadbent). A toy train brings them sweets as Mr. Gruber recalls leaving his own home (fleeing the Nazis) and taking a train to London -- not unlike Paddington. The bigger meaning might be lost on some kids, but stressing good manners, kindness, and compassion to strangers won't. This is a sweet film for young kids, with enough slapstick comedy for older ones and entertainment value for adults, too.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Paddington set off on his own after the earthquake. Can you think of any similar real-life situations in which kids have been forced to flee because of dangers at home? Is that something that scares you? Parents, reassure kids who might be worried about something like this happening to them.
Mr. Brown's job is about analyzing risk, which leads him to be very protective of his children. Do you think his concern is justified? Kids: Does it bother you when your family won't let you do something because it might be unsafe?
Paddington has very good manners. Do you think it's important to be polite?
- In theaters: January 16, 2015
- On DVD or streaming: April 28, 2015
- Cast: Nicole Kidman, Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins
- Director: Paul King
- Studio: Weinstein Co.
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Book characters, Wild animals
- Character strengths: Courage
- Run time: 95 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: mild action and rude humor
- Awards/Honors: Common Sense Seal
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