Paddington ★★★½

I can't think of a case of a more confounding Bad Trailer / Good Movie contrast. The trailer for Paddington was just about as dismaying as a Children's-Classic-to-Feature-Film preview can be. I felt a bit of my soul die when I saw it.

But the movie?

It's a joy.

Imagine a terrible Paddington screenplay somehow found its way to the most celebrated children's novelist Kate DiCamillo for a last-minute rewrite, and then it was handed over to a team of filmmakers from the crews responsible for Babe and Amelie. Somehow, you can hear the bigger, warmer heartbeat of classic childrens' literature beating behind the anemic pulse of a typically frantic factory-produced distraction for children.

Yes, some aspects of the screenplay pander to moviegoers who need constant action and stimulation; it remains far too focused on capers and chase scenes. But while some of those moments fall flat, others are really quite clever.

And even the forgettable moments look spectacular Paddington's imagery is absolutely gorgeous throughout. And the cast who carry us through are perfect — especially Sally Hawkins as the compassionate, emotional mother who knows that this immigrant bear is the best thing for her family. And Ben Whishaw's vocal performance as the impressively animated bear is wonderfully understated. There is splendid visual imagination in every scene. (I can honestly say that my favorite thing about this film — and there is a lot that I love about this film — is the wallpaper.)

Let's see: Is there anything else I can tell you to convince you how smart this movie is? How about this? There is a subtle but brilliant moment for fans of Doctor Who.