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(Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt was to write about life’s small pleasures, which can include how we treat one another.)

It’s the little things, you know,
That make a day a joy,
The little interactions, like a smile, a wink, a wave,
The “please” or “Miss” or “Mister”
That a shrinking few deploy,
Reminding us some people still recall how to behave.

When hate’s on all horizons
And stress is in the air
And every morning seems less optimistic than the last,
A touch of common courtesy,
Less common but still there,
Can prove the world’s not too far gone, no matter the forecast.

MPA rating: PG

At last, I finally got to see why everyone loves Paddington so much. For some reason, I never got around to seeing this family film from 2014 until recently, perhaps because I never read the original classic British children’s books when I was young. Paddington has quickly become beloved by both critics and audiences, and it does indeed have a near-perfect blend of whimsy and humor.

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The film starts with a flashback about a British explorer discovering a pair of intelligent bears in Darkest Peru, teaching them about England and marmalade sandwiches before returning home. Decades later, those bears’ nephew (voiced by Ben Whishaw) journeys from the jungle to Paddington Station in London, where he is taken in by the kind Brown family (Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins), who give him the name Paddington. He struggles, though, to find where he belongs, even as he’s targeted by a cruel taxidermist (Nicole Kidman).

It’s common for a family film to veer too far into puerile territory and be demoted to a “kid’s movie.” As a kid at heart, I can appreciate the vast majority of cartoons and such (as evidenced by yesterday’s review), but it’s clearly difficult for filmmakers to create something that can appeal to kids and adults without patronizing either. Pixar has mastered it, and so, it seems, has Paddington. There are, of course, jokes and burps and slapstick for easy laughs, but beyond that is an overwhelming abundance of charm. Paddington himself, rendered in bravura CGI, doesn’t have an unkind bone in his body, and his interactions with everyone are marked by a politeness and courtesy that is genuinely refreshing, due to how rare they’ve become in recent times. I’m sometimes irritated by characters who are defended for being clumsy and destructive, and there’s a little of that here, but the charm easily outweighs any negatives.

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More than anything, Paddington reminded me of another film about a polite CGI character trying to find his place in the world and being accepted into a nuclear family: 1999’s Stuart Little, which was a beloved movie for me growing up. My nostalgia makes me prefer the earlier film, but I like how Paddington has become the Stuart Little of a new generation. Paddington certainly is more critically lauded, and its inventive camerawork and set design only add to an overall delightful aesthetic. It’s a family film in the truest sense of the words.

Best line: (Mary Brown, giving a description of Paddington to a policeman) “He’s about three foot six, he’s got a bright red hat on, and a blue duffel coat… and he’s a bear.”
(Policeman) “It’s not much to go on.”
(Mary) “Really?”


Rank: List Runner-Up


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