There is much that can be learned from "Paddington," one of many films to attempt the daunting task of translating success from the black and white pages of a children's novel into the most visual of all arts. Of course, I am not referring to the actual events that take place, or the venture into a formulaic approach, which provides a wholesome concern comparable to any episode of the timeless sitcom by the name of "Full House."
Paddington, an uncoordinated yet lovable young bear, is a member of a rare species that is on the verge of extinction. (Apparently, this includes the ability to speak English and a natural love for marmalade.) After his residence in "darkest Peru" is damaged, Paddington jumps ship to London, a destination highly regarded within the family, consisting of his aunt and uncle. There he will participate in an endeavor to become accepted and to find a home. (The latter of which makes little sense, considering he had a home, but for arguments sake we will look past this defect.)
We watch as our inexperienced protagonist struggles to find compassion in the confines of a train station--that is--until he meets the Browns, a quirky group of four who would hardly seem the quintessential fitting for a newcomer. (We are introduced to this pack of individuals in the most informative manner, in which we ascertain the uptight personality of the father, the kind soul of the wife, the energetic nature of the son, and the typical pre-teen attitude of the daughter, which is fueled by the technique of leitmotif as she continuously announces her embarrassment.)
Naturally, the free-spirited mother brings him in, despite the apprehension of the husband, and the rest of the picture is defined by the father's uncertainty surrounding the adoption, along with rather puerile humor, which stems from Paddington's ineptitude in situations that arise through daily life.
The presentation of the film is arguably its most prominent strong suit, and it seems as if it were created by Wes Anderson, himself, as it very much resembles his work in its visual style and utilization of pastel colors. Additionally, the lighting is especially apt, as it highlights objects of the greatest significance, namely Paddington, in the most delicate of ways. As for the computer generated bear: He is cute and quite lively in his facial expressions. I am sure there are limitations to creating such mammals without making it look too cartoonish, although he surely evokes a sense of sophistication when compared to the likes of "Yogi Bear."
It has been a long time since I have witnessed such an abundance of symbolism (mainly by way of intrinsic metaphors) in a children's picture, and it was certainly a refreshing sentiment. The majority of them are visualizations, which convey a character's particular feelings at the time and which are infused with special effects to accommodate such notions.
The most heartwarming example takes place in the train station, as once Paddington is discovered, the word "found" flashes with joy, as he unknowingly took refuge under the lost and found sign. Other symbols are charged quite easily, including his red hat, yet they never exude an adequate amount of emotion to be very effective.
What "Paddington" primarily teaches us, is what not to do with regard to film-making. Here we have an adorable persona, accompanied by an exquisite setting, hampered by the lack of an imaginative script. Instead of focusing on the complications involved in finding a new home and the difficulty of fitting in, we are guided into a second storyline, which not only has no worth, but distracts us from the most important interactions at hand.
Maybe the conflict of reaching a foreign land, and attempting to find the security of a family, could have been a bit more strenuous, as opposed to throwing in an evil taxidermist, which subsequently transforms the picture into an eerily similar representation of the 1992 family film "Beethoven." (Both fathers have some trouble accepting the new "member" of the family, and instead of a wicked taxidermist, there is an immoral veterinarian.)
Not to mention the fact that not one single individual was in a state of shock from seeing a walking and conversing bear. I for one, would not be able to suppress my curiosity. What it basically boils down to is--we were ultimately robbed of what could have been a brilliant character study, which would have appeased both children and guardians, alike. It is just another prime example of a film that has a quality story within its structure, yet never fully realizes it.