Courtesy: Anchor Bay Entertainment/The Weinstein Group/Dimension
Anchor Bay Entertainment is one of the biggest and most influential independent studios in the entertainment world today. It is the driving force behind no fewer than three of AMC’s biggest series, one of which—The Walking Dead—is one of the biggest series on television today. Its role in the Starz network has also led to the success of series such as Black Sails, Da Vinci’s Demons, and Blunt Talk. It is also at least partially behind some of the biggest independent movies to come along in recent years. Those movies include the likes of Henry Poole Is Here, Unfinished Song, and Shanghai Calling just to name a few. For all of the impressive marks on the studio’s resume, it proved earlier this year with its new big screen adaptation of author Michael Bond’s Paddington books that it is not infallible. While the movie is a fun little flick for the whole family it is hardly one of 2015’s most memorable movies. That is thanks in large part to its unoriginal script, which can easily be compared to the equally forgettable 1992 canine-centered movie Beethoven. Both movies’ scripts are so similar that it is impossible say that this work has any real originality. This is even despite Paddington sticking to its source material. As troubling as this is to the whole of Paddington, it would be unfair to say that the movie is a total loss just from this one element. In the story’s defense, actress Nicole Kidman is to be commended for her work as the villainous taxidermist Millicent. The movie’s makeup and costume departments are both just as much to applaud for their work in making Kidman into Millicent. It is thanks to their work that she is nearly unrecognizable. Sadly their work and that of Kidman herself are the only real shining gems of Paddington. The special effects used to bring Paddington to life are nothing new. They can easily be compared to the work of those behind Yogi Bear and so many other CG/live action hybrid flicks before it. And as beautiful as the story’s backdrop is even it can’t save the movie. That is even when it is set alongside the movie’s only other positives. That being the case, the sad reality of Paddington is that even as entertaining as it is for the whole family, it is largely one of this year’s most forgettable theatrical releases.
Paddington was one of the most anticipated family movies of 2015 ahead of its release early this year. Sadly the hype and anticipation over this new big screen release proved to be all for naught. That is because it proved in the end to be in fact one of the year’s least memorable movies. The main reason that it proved to be such an unforgettable work is its script. In watching this movie, there is no denying its blatant similarities to the 1992 family flick Beethoven. It’s almost as if the movie’s writing team of Paul King and Hamish McColl took Beethoven’s script and tweaked it to meet the needs of this story. For all intents and purposes, Paddington was an orphan much like Beethoven when he [Paddington] was taken in by the Brown family. Sure, Paddington wasn’t adopted from a pet store. But it can be argued in regards to the character development exhibited through the story’s progression that he does in fact become “adopted” more or less. It’s just a different scenario. As the story progress, audiences see Paddington pursued by Kidman’s villainous Millicent only to ultimately meet a rather hilarious end just as Dr. Varnick (Dean Jones—The Love Bug, Clear and Present Danger, The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes) does in Beethoven. For the sake of those that have not seen either movie, neither character’s fate will be revealed here. Getting back on the subject, it can be easily seen in putting the two scripts side-by-side just how similar the pair is to one another. That being the case, it is difficult to take Paddington with much seriousness or even respect being that this is the case.
If the similarities between the two movie’s scripts aren’t enough to convince audiences of just how unforgettable Paddington proves to be, a comparison of some of the movie’s characters might help convince viewers. We will start with a comparison of the stories’ father figures. Charles Grodin’s George Newton character from Beethoven has been almost identically replicated in Paddington in the form of Hugh Bonneville’s Henry Brown. That replication is right down to his original, gruff reluctance to take in Paddington when the Browns first meet Paddington. George Newton was much the same way with Beethoven in that movie. Young Judy Brown (Madeline Harris—The White Queen, Being Human, Man Down) is a near mirror image of Beethoven’s Ryce Newton (Nicholle Tom—The Nanny, Justice League, Beverly Hills, 90210). Both actresses portrayed the moody daughter figure in their respective roles. And just as Sarah Rose Karr’s (Kindergarten Cop, Father of the Bride, Beethoven’s 2nd) Emily was Beethoven’s best friend in that movie so is Jonathan Brown’s (Samuel Joslin—The Impossible) relationship with Paddington much that same in this movie. Taking into consideration the overall lack of originality in regards to both the movie’s script and its characters (and their growth over the course of the movie’s progression), it should be clear as to why it is so difficult to call this movie anything more than perhaps a one-time watch at best.
The issues with Paddington’s script both in regards to its story and its characters and their development do plenty to keep the movie from being anything that families will remember for years to come. For all of its problems Paddington is not a total loss. It does have some positives. One of those few, rare positives is the work of actress Nicole Kidman as the evil taxidermist Millicent. Millicent takes the character established by Dean Jones in Beethoven and steps up that role even more. What that means to say is that she really is believable in her delusions. Yet at the same time there’s a certain comic element about Millicent that Kidman brings out on camera that audiences will love just as much. The combination of those two elements together makes Kidman the real star of the movie interestingly enough. It makes a person want to see the movie if only for her performance. On a related note, those that were responsible for Kidman’s makeup and attire are worthy of their own credit. That is the movie’s only other real, noticeable positive.
Nicole Kidman may have played the role of the villain in Anchor Bay’s new CG/live-action hybrid adaptation of Paddington. But even playing the villain, she was the real shining gem of this otherwise forgettable flick. That is because the movie’s script—both in regards to its story and characters and their development—is anything but original or even memorable. Luckily she isn’t the only bright element of this movie. Those that were responsible for Kidman’s makeup and costume are also to be commended. That is because collectively, they made her nearly unrecognizable. If viewers were to see her on screen in this movie without knowing it was her ahead of time, they would not have known at all that it was her. That is unless they were to have sat through the movie’s credits or researched the character online via a website such as imdb.com, or other similar sites. From her hairdo (was that a wig or not?) to her costumes to even minute details such as her overall makeup, those responsible for bringing Millicent to life on screen (at least in terms of her look) are to be highly commended for their work. Maybe that is why Kidman did so well in her portrayal. She felt that said individuals had done such an impressive job in their charge that she felt that comfortable in her own acting. That could well be just this critic’s own take of course. But it is still something worth considering. Regardless, it is safe to say that the work of those individuals along with Kidman’s own work are the only real elements of Paddington worth watching. The movie’s script in every one of its aspects really does nothing to make the movie memorable. That being the case, it is safe to say that while Paddington is not this year’s worst movie—that dishonor currently sits between Marvel’s new Avengers movie and Universal’s new Despicable Me spinoff Minions—it definitely is hardly one of the year’s best new big screen features.
It’s sad to say that Anchor Bay’s attempt to bring author Michael Bond’s beloved furry friend to life on the big screen. That’s especially the case because its debut early this year marked the first time ever that Bond’s character had been adapted to the big screen. Sure there was a TV show some decades ago. But up until this year, no studio had had the gumption to adapt it for a big screen feature. For that reason alone, Anchor Bay deserves at least some credit for having the bravery to give it a chance. One can only hope that considering its weak, unoriginal script juxtaposed by the otherwise impressive work of actress Nicole Kidman and those charged with helping bring Kidman’s character to life, that the movie’s now rumored sequel will fare better. That is because while this movie is not the year’s worst new theatrical offering, it is definitely not one of the year’s best either. Here’s to hoping, Paddington. Here’s to hoping. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.