Year 8, Day 254 - 9/10/16 - Movie #2,448
BEFORE: Back on the original track with my UK/European-themed films, and both Julie Walters AND Jim Broadbent carry over from "Brooklyn". Even though I'm sort of bouncing around between comedy, drama, and children's film with animation, thematically I'm totally on point - "Calendar Girls" was about British ladies becoming famous and visiting the U.S., "Brooklyn" was about an Irish girl immigrating to New York, and "Paddington" is about a bear who leaves Peru and goes to London to find a family. (For that matter, "Woman in Gold" is about a woman who escapes Austria and heads to America, and even "The Croods" is about a family that leaves their cave and treks to a new part of Pangea - so it looks like immigration is my theme for the whole week.)
THE PLOT: A young Peruvian bear travels to London in search of a home. Finding himself lost and alone at Paddington Station, he meets the kindly Brown family, who offer him a temporary haven.
AFTER: It's a beloved children's classic book, all over the U.K. and perhaps in part of the U.S. as well, but I just don't think it worked as a movie. Maybe for the really young kids, it gives them something to stare at for an hour and a half, but for kids who are older and have partially-formed brains, I just don't see it. But then, I'm not an expert on kids and what they find entertaining. Didn't that "Angry Birds" film make a ton of money? And it looks incessantly stupid - as did "Paddington" when I was first forced to watch a trailer for it.
The first problem seemed to be - which of Paddington's adventures should the film cover? There are like 20 books going back to 1958 to draw from - and some poor screenwriter had to stitch together bits of the origin story, along with "A Bear in Hot Water" (taking a bath), "Paddington Goes Underground" (lost on the subway), and "Paddington and the Old Master" (meeting Mr. Gruber) - with each now being part of a coherent whole, instead of self-contained stories. So that's a logistical nightmare right there, but I can see the inherent problem, there's no villain, no threat, just a bunch of cutesy mishaps.
Next step, create a villain, and they clearly based one off of Cruella de Vil from "101 Dalmatians", by making Millicent, someone who not only has a connection to Paddington's past but believes he belongs in a museum display. (And they didn't even do a joke where she offers to "stuff" him, and he thinks he's about to be fed really well...) Look, I don't think that much of taxidermists, it's a gruesome science, but I'm pretty sure there has to be a taxidermy code or something, which states that you can't kill an animal just to stuff it, it has to be dead already.
Now, if I were a studio head, and this was pitched to me, some writer would have said, "And the bear talks..." and I would have said, "I'm going to stop you right there." Because you have to believe that a bear can talk to enjoy this, and that's not possible, so it calls the whole reality into question. Sure, animals talk in a lot of movies, but that's for the sake of storytelling, or a convention of animation, and unfortunately, it's all bunk. It's a storytelling crutch, right? I mean, Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton made films for years without talking, and they got their points across, why are kids films filled with silly talking animals? Aren't they then disappointed with the real ones, that don't talk at all? How does this help society as a whole?
Plus, isn't this going to create problems among kids, by making them think that a bear cub would be an appropriate pet? Is there going to be a rush on kids asking for bears at the pet store, like they did with clownfish after "Finding Nemo" and guinea pigs after "G-Force"? Like, kids today are so impressionable that they think turtles really have ninja-like skills. What's to keep them from going outside after spotting a bear in their backyard pool, and offering that bear a marmalade sandwich?
Then we've got the animation problem, combining an animated bear with scenes of live-action actors. Now, they can't make him look too much like a cartoon, because then what's a cartoon doing interacting with people? And they can't make him look too much like a real bear, because then the audience's brains would be thinking, "Oh my GOD, that bear is totally going to eat those people!" So they had to compromise somewhere in the middle, and it ended up just looking off, in a way.
So, I'm sorry, but start to finish this one just didn't work for me. It's poorly-intentioned, poorly thought out, and poorly-put together. Plus the effects on kids are potentially disastrous. This is the first of two "talking bear" films scheduled for this year, I should be able to get to "Ted 2" sometime in November. But it looks like the remake of "The Jungle Book" will have to wait.
Also starring Hugh Bonneville (last seen in "Muppets Most Wanted"), Sally Hawkins (last seen in "Blue Jasmine"), Nicole Kidman (last seen in "Moulin Rouge!"), Peter Capaldi (last seen in "The Fifth Estate"), Madeleine Harris, Samuel Joslin, Matt Lucas (last seen in "Shaun of the Dead"), Tim Downie (last seen in "Les Miserables"), Geoffrey Palmer (last seen in "Lost Christmas"), Matt King, Alice Lowe, with the voices of Ben Whishaw (last seen in "Cloud Atlas"), Imelda Staunton (last seen in "Sense and Sensibility"), Michael Gambon.
RATING: 4 out of 10 hungry pigeons