Reviews — From the March 2015 issue

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When inviting a bear from darkest Peru into your terraced London house, the first thing to do is increase the coverage on your homeowners’ insurance policy. “Yes, a bear . . . about three foot six,” says Mr. Brown to the insurance agent on the phone in an early scene in Paddington: The Movie. The tenderness of Mr. Brown’s misguided specificity — it wouldn’t seem that the bear’s height is the most salient of details — endures as a mood in this film about an ursine immigrant to the U.K. who does, indeed, cause several thousand pounds’ worth of property damage. He overflows the tub calamitously and uses his hosts’ toothbrushes as Q-tips. But our bear Paddington also improvises in more benign ways: when daunted by the escalator at the tube station, he notices a helpful sign — dogs must be carried — and so appropriates a dog, reapproaches the escalator, and proceeds with confidence. Aiming to do things right is Paddington’s special way of getting things wrong.

Illustration by Demetrios Psillos

Illustration by Demetrios Psillos

Mr. Brown, played by Hugh Bonneville, is a professional risk analyst in present-day London. He is at first skeptical of the marmalade-loving migrant, telling his children that Paddington will need to be sent to “An Institution for Young Souls Whose Parents Have Sadly Passed On.” But Mr. Brown eventually becomes so devoted to the bear that, in a climactic scene, he dresses as a cleaning lady to aid Paddington on an essential fact-finding mission at the corrupt Geographer’s Guild.

Mrs. Brown, played by Sally Hawkins, requires no change of heart, or costume; she dedicates herself to Paddington’s welfare spontaneously and efficiently while wearing a lot of bright red. Her dramatic arc is not about the bear but about finding a way to once again see her husband as heroic — ultimately casting him as the hero of the children’s books she illustrates.

The Browns are a familiar family, one that (like Paddington) tries to do right; we can imagine them going to this movie together, having toted in their own healthy snacks. They would love the film, which is silly and smart and witty and pretty and just feel-good enough that you don’t have to feel too bad about feeling good.

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is a contributing editor of Harper’s Magazine.

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