Paddington – Movie Review

This bear has been very well looked after

Thanks to STUDIOCANAL we had the chance to see ‘Paddington’ before its national release. This is our review of the film, but – as usual – no matter what we say, we recommend that you still go to your local cinema and see the film because there is no better critic than yourself!

Paddington3Author Michael Bond’s lovable Peruvian bear from the 1950s book series has been given new life and a new look in the live-motion feature film, Paddington. Written and directed by Paul King (director of TV series The Mighty Boosh and Come Fly with Me), this sweet and hilarious film feels like an instant classic that will be loved by all ages for decades to come.

The film starts with scratchy black and white newsreel footage of English explorer Montgomery Clyde in ‘darkest Peru’ where he stumbles across an undiscovered species of bear. Quickly befriended by two welcoming bears, the explorer introduces them to all things English and leaves them with grandest impression of London.  When an earthquake and tragedy strikes the loving bears’ home, their small nephew (voiced by Ben Whishaw) stows away to London to find the explorer who years earlier offered them a home.

Before leaving Peru, the aunt of the small bear puts a note around his neck, asking “Please look after this bear”, like the many children fleeing war-ravaged London had done years before.  When the young bear arrives in London he does not receive the warm welcome he expected, until the kind Mrs Brown (Sally Hawkins) finally notices the polite bear standing alone in Paddington Station.  Mrs Brown suggests the bear take on an English name, Paddington, and offers to take him in for a short time despite the disapproval of her husband Mr Brown (Hugh Bonneville).   It is from this point on the film deviates from the famous storybooks and the film takes on an adventure of its own.

Paddington KidmanWhile looking for the explorer in London, Paddington captures the interest of taxidermist Millicent (Nicole Kidman) who wants to add the unique bear to her special collection at the Natural History Museum. Through his journey to find a permanent home, Paddington’s well-meaning curiosity gets him into all kinds of trouble.

Though Paddington’s adventure begins on a sad note, there is something very magical and wonderful about the film where a talking bear in a city is nothing unusual.  Perhaps it is just the London setting, the grand family home, or the unhappy family Paddington brings together but there are a lot of good similarities to Mary Poppins. Many children will dream of having a Paddington in their family, like they dreamt of having the adventures the Banks children had with their special nanny.

There is also a fantastic quirkiness to the characters and flow of the film. The way the characters are individually introduced in the film draws on even more great similarities to Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Amélie. The soundtrack to the film is also more than just a backing track – the music is provided by a busking calypso band that Paddington passes by several times throughout the film.

Though the story at times is very simple and predictable, the journey is laugh-out-loud funny. Hugh Bonneville as the risk analyst father is hilarious.  His comedic timing and delivery of his lines is perfect, and his interaction with Paddington brings most of the humour to the film. Paddington1But as the title suggests Paddington is the star of the film, and Ben Whishaw voices the CGI creation perfectly. Colin Firth was initially cast to voice the young bear but as the film progressed Firth and King agreed it was not the right fit. People who remember the 2D stop-motion Paddington cartoons of the 1970s, or have seen any of the #creepypaddington mimes, may be put off with the real-bear-look as opposed to the previous teddy bear look but you learn to love this bear very quickly.

King’s take on Paddington is full of heart; it will make you laugh, cry and want to jump through the screen to help the well-mannered bear.

Paddington – in cinemas nationally on  11 December