Friday, February 22, 2019

NYICFF ’19: Gordon & Paddy

Paddy is a mouse of mystery. She has no home, no profession, and no history. However, she has a keen sense of smell, so Gordon taps her to be his successor as police superintendent of the forest. The mouse and the toad will do some good police work together, but the shadow of the feared fox looms over every case in Linda Hambäck’s Gordon & Paddy, which screens during the 2019 New York International Children's Film Festival.

Paddy didn’t even have a name of her own until she met Gordon. It was not an auspicious first meeting. Technically, he collared her boosting a stray nut from a crime scene, but Gordon is no Javert. He is not about to bust someone for being hungry. He is also grateful to Paddy for digging him out of a snowdrift. Once he discovers how keen her sense of smell is, he recruits her to assist his investigation of the squirrel’s purloined winter cache of nuts.

Soon, he also starts to groom her to take over as the forest superintendent. Unfortunately, Paddy’s first solo case in her new position will be even more serious—and all signs ominously point towards the formidable fox.

G&P is an absolutely charming little (at 65 minutes, it is indeed little) film that will leave even the most cynical curmudgeons smiling from ear to ear. Hambäck’s animated film, based on a Swedish children’s book by Ulf Nilsson & Gitte Spee, is fully stocked with cute forest critters, but there are surprisingly high stakes to Paddy’s cases. Nevertheless, G&P has a pleasant, easy-going vibe that makes the film appropriate for kids of all ages.

Seasoned Gordon is also quite an old soul. Frankly, he is a more distinctive character than three-fourths of the stock figures we get in mainstream live-action movies. Stellan Skarsgård’s gruff but warm voice-over performance is absolutely pitch-perfect. Frankly, it is probably the best we have heard since Dominic West lent his silkily sinister voice to the Big Bad Wolf in Revolting Rhymes.

There is nothing particularly groundbreaking or daring about G&P, but every frame is a cheerfully winning viewing experience. Ironically, one of the most humanistic films you will see on the festival circuit this year is entirely about forest critters. Very highly recommended for families and animation fans, Gordon & Paddy screens tomorrow (2/23) at Scandinavia House, the following Sunday (3/3) at the Cinepolis Chelsea, and the Saturday after that (3/9) at the IFC Center, as part of this year’s NYICFF.