Friday, 16 January 2015

Paddington (2014)

I've never read any of the original Paddington Bear stories, but I did grow up watching some of the delightful stop-motion TV episodes, narrated by Michael Hordern. I liked the little bear, initially because he was an identifiable figure (he is, after all, a small, curious child with an addiction to a certain type of sandwich), but later on I viewed him with enduring affection because he was a quintessentially charming British creation. Despite hailing from deepest, darkest Peru, Paddington is as synonymous with the UK as red telephone boxes, a good cup of tea, and people who will do anything to avoid social embarrassment.

And it is this quaint, and largely bygone, view of Britain that makes Paddington such a great success on the big screen. It celebrates many of our idiosyncracies, while also viewing them with the look of puzzlement that they probably deserve.

The basic plot sees Paddington (voiced by Ben Whishaw) arriving here on our shores and hoping to find a new family. He is eventually approached by the Browns, ending up being allowed to share their home until he finds somewhere else to settle. While making many strange new discoveries, Paddington causes numerous accidents (some minor, some pretty big). He soon starts to outstay his welcome. Meanwhile, a taxidermist named Millicent (Nicole Kidman) finds out about this rare beast arriving in the UK and wants to add him to her collection.

Directed by Paul King, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Hamish McColl, this is the very definition of fun for all the family. Kids will love the central character and many of the jokes. Adults will also enjoy many of the jokes, while also being able to spot a myriad of subtler gags and references strewn throughout the film (a personal favourite of mine involves the Brown family in a reversed "Evolution Of Man" tableau). The pacing is perfect, the rendering of Paddington feels very real, and a number of set-pieces ensure that you'll be hoping to see more antics in a sequel even as the end credits are still rolling.

Whishaw is a perfect vocal fit for the main character, helping Paddington to remain very much the furry child that still has so much to learn. The Browns are nicely portrayed by Sally Hawkins and Hugh Bonneville (as the mother and father), and Madeleine Harris and Samuel Joslin (the daughter and son). Bonneville gets to have the most fun with his role, but Hawkins also has some great little moments, while Harris and Joslin both react very differently to the presence of the little bear in their home. Julie Walters is the housekeeper who seems unfazed by anything, and even thinks that the Browns may benefit from Paddington's presence, and Peter Capaldi is a nosey neighbour, providing some more laughs in the second half of the film. This may not be the kind of film that you'd expect Kidman to do well in, but she does. Her villain is perfectly balanced, she's a genuine threat to Paddington without ever being TOO terrifying for younger viewings. And the motivation for her character is surprisingly brilliant.

With cameo appearances from many other fine British performers (Jim Broadbent, Michael Gambon and Imelda Staunton in voice form, Alice Lowe, Steve Oram, Matt Lucas, Geoffrey Palmer and Simon Farnaby being the main ones), a lively score by Nick Urata, plenty of iconic imagery and clever use of pesky pigeons, this is a film that easily proves more than just bear-able.

Oh come on, I got all this way without one groan-inducing pun. There had to be one.


The movie won't be out on shiny disc for a while, so treat yourself to some nostalgia here -

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The UK version can be bought here -

And American folks can buy it here -

As much as I love the rest of the world, I can't keep up with all of the different links in different territories, but trust me when I say that it should be there on your local Amazon.

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