The Films of Paul King
Bunny and the Bull
Paddington (May 7/18)
Inspired by the character created by Michael Bond, Paddington follows the title protagonist, a friendly, anthropomorphic bear, as he relocates to London and eventually moves in with Hugh Bonneville's Henry and Sally Hawkins' Mary and their two children (Madeleine Harris' Judy and Samuel Joslin's Jonathan) - with the narrative detailing Paddington's fish-out-of-water exploits and, eventually, his conflict with an evil museum curator named Millicent (Nicole Kidman). Filmmaker Paul King has infused Paddington with a bright, fast-paced feel that generally proves difficult to resist, with the pervasively affable atmosphere heightened by a proliferation of agreeable elements - with, in particular, the movie benefiting strongly from the efforts of an across-the-board stellar cast (and this is to say nothing of Ben Whishaw's completely charming voice work as Paddington). It's equally clear, though, that King's decidedly kid-friendly sensibilities ensure that the whole thing is often just a little too lighthearted for comfort, with the inoffensive vibe perpetuated by an episodic structure that ultimately does wreak havoc on the film's tenuous momentum (yet there's little doubt that the climactic stretch is just as exciting and engaging as one might've hoped). The end result is a decent adaptation that's obviously been designed to appeal to kids more than older viewers, although it's virtually impossible not to get an ongoing kick out of King's continuously creative approach to the material.
An agreeable sequel, Paddington 2 follows the title character (Ben Whishaw) as he's falsely accused of stealing a valuable book and sent to prison - with the narrative detailing Paddington's jail-set exploits and the ongoing efforts of his family to get him released. It's eventually clear that Paddington 2 fares slightly better than its affable yet erratic 2014 predecessor, as scripters Simon Farnaby and Paul King (the latter of whom also directs) have infused the picture with a more consistent feel - with the episodic structure that has seemingly come to define this series containing few (if any) lackluster sequences. There's little doubt, then, that certain set pieces make a far more positive impact than others, with the movie ultimately at its best when focused on Paddington's engaging activities within the aforementioned jail. (That the diminutive protagonist shares many of his prison-bound scenes with an engaging and often hilarious Brendan Gleeson doesn't hurt, surely.) The film's inability to become more than just a completely entertaining family-friendly product is somewhat disappointing, though, and yet it's admittedly impossible to deny the emotional impact of the movie's feel-good and heartwarming conclusion - which does, in the end, confirm Paddington 2's place as a superior followup that's perhaps not quite the revelatory, flawless masterpiece it's been labeled.