Director: Paul King
Starring: Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Ben Whithaw, Julie Walters, Nicole Kidman, Peter Capaldi, Jim Broadbent.
Written by: Paul King and (based on the books) Michael Bond
Running Time: 95 mins
Release date: 28th November 2014
Having spent the year in utter despair at the quality of populist entertainment produced by British film makers this year (see Turkeys Of The Year 2014…coming soon), my hopes were high that Paddington would change the course and that Nativity 3 or Pudsey The Dog The Movie, would be erased from my mind. Thankfully it delivers and does it with style, class and a huge feeling of joy.
In deepest darkest Peru a family of bears, discovered by an English explorer, send their youngest to the safety of London. There he meets the Brown family, who take him under their wing, even though Mr Brown, a risk consultant, is not happy with the set up. Paddington, named after the station he was found in, has a knack of causing chaos where ever he goes and he soon attracts the attention of Millicent, a taxidermist who wants him stuffed.
Director and writer Paul King has taken Michael Bond’s popular children’s stories and come up with a magical mix of slapstick comedy, sentimentality and charm. Everything is meticulous in its detailing, from the design and look of the film to the precision of the elaborate set pieces, some of which are so detailed, you feel you want to applaud them.
There is so much to like, such as the doll’s house that opens up to reveal the Brown’s own home, as the camera moves from room to room. Not the most original of ideas, admittedly, but it certainly works here. as does the Calypso Band, who pop up throughout the film with a musical interlude. Again, done before but adding to the overall charm of the film.
Where it does triumph massively is in Paddington himself. A CGI masterstroke with expressions and use of eyes that some actors struggle with. The various emotions that pour out of the bear are quite incredible and this helps us warm to him even more. Whether it be a gentle smile or a moment of terror, they are captured superbly, never allowing us to forget that this isn’t Caesar from the Planet Of The Apes but a warm and friendly, if troublesome bear.
Ben Whishaw, who provides the voice, has a nice air of innocence while still maintaining his polite and friendly manner. With stories of Colin Firth pulling out, Whishaw seems a perfect replacement.
The humans seem to be having loads of fun. Hugh Bonneville has mastered the bumbling, safety conscious Mr Brown with utter ease and Sally Hawkins is an absolute pleasure as the well-meaning Mrs Brown, with a nice line in underselling a joke (listen carefully to everything she says).
We also get Julie Walters hamming it up as Mrs Bird and Jim Broadbent giving us another jolly creation with another outrageous wig (he loves a wig). The new incarnation of Doctor Who, Peter Capaldi is hilarious as the slimy neighbour, yet the one name who seems to be relishing letting her hair down is Nicole Kidman as the villain of the piece. With her bob haircut and an unusual line in high heels, she manages to be sexy and sinister without upsetting the children too much. It’s Kidman at her most relaxed.
While some of the scenes seem more episodic and feel out-of-place in the story, it’s a minor quibble to the most infectiously joyful movies of the year. Those afraid that going to see Paddington without a child might be “uncool”, I say, don’t give a hoot, just go. It will bring the child out in you. It’s funny, it’s touching, it’s a blast and I hope it won’t be the last we see of him.