In the deep jungles of darkest Peru, British geographer Montgomery Clyde happens upon a previously unknown species of bear. He is about to shoot it to take back a specimen to England when another bear playfully takes his gun away. He learns that this family of bears is intelligent and can learn English, and that they have a deep appetite for marmalade. He names them Lucy and Pastuzo. As he departs, he throws his hat to Pastuzo and tells the bears that they are always welcome should they wish to go to London.
Several years later, the two bears are living in harmony with their nephew when an earthquake strikes their home, forcing them to seek shelter underground. Distracted and upset at the loss of his home, Pastuzo is unable to reach the shelter in time. He is presumed dead, with his hat being found the next day by his nephew. Aunt Lucy encourages her nephew to go and find solace in London, and stows him away on a cargo ship, after which she says she will move into the Home for Retired Bears.
The young bear reaches London, but fails to find a home. He is taken in briefly by the Brown family. Mary Brown, the mother and a story illustrator, names him Paddington, after the station where they found him. Henry Brown, the father and a devoted risk analyst, who doesn't believe a word of why he's here, is adamant that Paddington stay only one night while they find a place for him to live permanently. Paddington causes a series of accidents across the house, further isolating himself from the Browns.
Paddington thinks he can find a home with the explorer who found his aunt and uncle, but does not know his name. Since there seems to be no word of his expedition anywhere on the internet, Mrs. Brown takes Paddington to Mr. Gruber, an antique shop owner who discovers that the hat bears the stamp of the Geographers Guild, but the Guild says that it never sent a member to explore darkest Peru. With the help of Mr. Brown, who refuses to let the family help him, Paddington infiltrates the Geographers' Guild archives and discovers an expedition to Peru was undertaken by Montgomery Clyde. He uses the city's phone books to track the addresses of all the "M Clydes'" in London.
Meanwhile, the sadistic museum taxidermist Director Millicent Clyde, later revealed to be the explorer's daughter, captures, kills, and stuffs exotic animals to house in the Natural History Museum. When she becomes aware of Paddington, she immediately sets out to hunt him down. The Brown family departs for the day, leaving Paddington home alone. Scheming with the Browns' nosy neighbour Mr. Curry who is in love with her, Millicent sneaks in and attempts to capture Paddington; he manages to defend himself, but inadvertently starts a fire in the kitchen in the process. Disbelieving Paddington's statement of Millicent's capture attempt, the Browns, mainly Henry, state that he must move into a new home as soon as possible.
Feeling unwanted at the Browns, Paddington leaves and attempts to track down Montgomery Clyde himself. He finally locates the house, only to learn that Clyde died years ago, and that Millicent resents her father for losing his job and membership with the museum; out of a change of heart, he refused to bring a valuable Peruvian bear specimen home, even though it would have made his family wealthy. Millicent is determined to succeed where her father failed and capture a Peruvian bear so she can become rich and famous herself. She tranquilizes Paddington and prepares to stuff him, but when Mr. Curry discovers her true intentions, he informs the Brown family and they rush to save Paddington. They rescue him, and Paddington subdues Millicent by throwing a marmalade sandwich at her which his uncle left in his hat for emergencies, which attracts a huge flock of pigeons, distracting her, as family relative and housekeeper Mrs. Bird opens a roof hatch and inadvertently pushes her off the roof, trapping her on a flagpole.
In the aftermath, the Browns adopt Paddington into their family and Millicent is sentenced to community service at the petting zoo her father opened after he lost his job. Paddington writes to Aunt Lucy saying he is happy and has finally found a home.
The film was first announced in September 2007, with David Heyman producing and Hamish McColl writing the screenplay. Further developments were not made until September 2013, when filming began and Heyman announced the casting of Colin Firth as Paddington. With a budget of €38.5 million ($50–55 million), Paddington is the most expensive film produced by the French production company StudioCanal. Principal photography and production began on 13 September 2013.
In June 2014, after principal photography had wrapped, Firth voluntarily dropped out of the film, after the studio decided his voice was not suitable for Paddington. The role was recast the following month, with Ben Whishaw signing on to voice the title role. Paddington was created using a combination of computer-generated imagery (by the British company Framestore) and animatronics.
Nick Urata composed the film's soundtrack. Gwen Stefani and Pharrell Williams were commissioned to write a song for the film's American release, which turned into "Shine".
All music composed by Nick Urata, except where noted.
A video game based on the film, titled Paddington: Adventures in London was released on 11 August 2015 for Nintendo 3DS and is published by Kids' Mania.
Paddington was released on Blu-ray, DVD and streaming on 23 March 2015 in the UK, and on 28 April 2015 in the United States.
In November 2014 the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) gave the film a PG certificate for its UK release and advised parents that the film contained "dangerous behaviour, mild threat, mild sex references [and] mild bad language." Paul King, the film's director, told BBC reporter Tim Muffett: "I'm not surprised about that [the PG certificate] but I don't think it's a PG for sexiness. That I would find very odd." Paddington's creator, Michael Bond, said he was "totally amazed" at the BBFC's advice. After the film's distributor challenged the certification, the BBFC revised the wording of its parental guidance, replacing "mild sex references" with "innuendo." It also further qualified the "mild bad language" as "infrequent", saying it referred to "a single mumbled use of 'bloody'."
Paddington was released on 28 November 2014 in the United Kingdom, where it took in $8 million (£5.1 million) on its opening weekend, and topped the box office for two weeks. It was StudioCanal's highest opening and the second-highest 2014 family film debut in the country behind The Lego Movie. For the week ending 9 December 2014 it topped the box office in France. For the week ending 24 December 2014 it topped the box office in Australia.
The film was released in the United States by TWC-Dimension on 16 January 2015. The film opened to third place in its first weekend, earning $19.0 million, behind American Sniper and The Wedding Ringer, and closed with a total of $76.3 million.
It opened at no.1 at the Japan box office in January 2016 with $1.1 million and went on to gross $5.7 million.
The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes sampled 135 reviews and judged 98% of them to be positive with an average rating of 7.9/10. The site states that "Paddington brings a beloved children's character into the 21st century without sacrificing his essential charm, delivering a family-friendly adventure as irresistibly cuddly as its star." On Metacritic, the film has a score of 77 out of 100, based on 38 critics, indicating generally favourable reviews. According to CinemaScore, audiences gave the film a grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale.
Upon its UK release, Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian gave the film four out of five stars, saying: "the new CGI-live-action Paddington Bear could easily have been another garish, cheapo Brit-movie. Instead, writer-director Paul King ... and co-writer Hamish McColl have created a charming and sweet-natured family film, full of wit and fun, skewed towards young children but cheekily speckled with sly gags pitched at the older audience." Geoffrey Macnab of The Independent called it a "film of considerable charm but one undermined by a very bitty and flimsy screenplay. Writer-director Paul King has more flair for comic set-pieces than he does for sustained narrative."
Indiewire said critics were "pleasantly surprised" and that the film was "hailed for its warm-heartedness and playful sense of humor ... and Whishaw's charming performance". Guy Lodge of Variety praised it for "honouring the everyday quirks of Bond's stories, while subtly updating their middle-class London milieu". Leslie Felperin of The Hollywood Reporter gave the film a positive review, saying: "It's a relief to report that the final film is actually quite charming, thoughtful and as cuddly as a plush toy, albeit one with a few modern gizmos thrown in." Ignatiy Vishnevetsky of The A.V. Club gave the film a B, saying: "If the film seems head-and-shoulders above the average effects-driven family-matinee flick, it's because it never gives the impression that it's trying to be anything more (or less) than good-natured and fun to watch." Jason Clark of Entertainment Weekly gave the film an A-, saying: "A gloriously whimsical big-screen debut that's closer to the madcap spirit of the Muppets and the lovingly rendered style of a Wes Anderson film than to standard multiplex family fodder." Claudia Puig of USA Today gave the film three out of four stars, saying: "Paddington's journey from South America to London is just droll enough for adults – qualifying as a gentle parable about xenophobia – and exuberant enough for the youngest viewers." Moira MacDonald of The Seattle Times gave the film three out of five stars, saying: "Paddington is, ultimately, about how a newcomer can become part of a family, and about how good manners and marmalade can get you out of any tricky situation – delightful messages, at any age." Bruce Demara of the Toronto Star gave the film three out of four stars, saying: "It's a relief to say that – as films based on fictional animals go – Paddington is better than merely bearable."
Barbara VanDenburgh of The Arizona Republic gave the film three and a half stars out of five, saying: "Paddington is a mostly smart update loaded with charm, and it preserves enough of the fuzzy feelings for purists to walk away with a smile." Peter Travers of Rolling Stone gave the film four out of five stars, saying: "An irresistible charmbomb. The in-jokes are verbal and visual, managing to reference themes as diverse as immigration and insider trading. It's all very droll and quietly, memorably dazzling." Sandie Angulo Chen of The Washington Post gave the film three out of four stars, saying: "Because of its adorable protagonist, laugh-out-loud gags and touching premise, Paddington succeeds in a way most CGI/live-action hybrids do not." Betsy Sharkey of the Los Angeles Times gave the film a positive review, saying: "Artfully and cleverly, the sweet spirit of that young bear from darkest Peru and his many London misadventures materializes brilliantly on screen in the very good hands of writer-director-conjurer Paul King."
Mary Houlihan of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three and a half stars out of four, saying: "This is a charming film whose underlying message of tolerance and acceptance strikes a palpable chord in today's world – both for children and adults." Jocelyn Noveck of the Associated Press gave the film a positive review, saying: "For parents looking for a film that'll please them and their kids in equal measure, Paddington is—as Goldilocks would say in that other bear story—just right." Tom Long of The Detroit News gave the film a B+, saying: "Paddington is an absolute delight, visually inventive, thoroughly goofy and goosed by a mix of dry British wit and pratfall shenanigans."
On 28 April 2015, a sequel to the film was confirmed. David Heyman will produce again. It will be released on 10 November 2017 in the United Kingdom. It was also announced that Paul King would return to direct and co-write with Simon Farnaby. A third film has been confirmed.