From deep darkest Peru, a young bear makes his way to London after an earthquake shatters his home. He’s picked up by the Smith’s and named Paddington.
So first things first, the BBFC are full of shit. I doubt I will have to go into specifics especially on this side of the pond but for those that might not be in the know, well this film was given a slightly higher rating for a swear word and some slightly sexual innuendos. I specifically listened out for any swear words to which there were none except for maybe when Hugh Bonneville’s Mr. Smith tries to pronounce Paddington’s name in bear talk which is nothing more than a grunt to which the bear replies “that is quite rude.” The latter is when Mr. Smith again infiltrates a vault dressed as a cleaning lady only to be flirted with by one of the security guards. It’s funny and the children in the audience were having a riot.
So with that out of the way how does Paddington hold up? As a hardcore sci-fi and horror nut, I couldn’t help but love this film. Ben Whishaw replacing Colin Firth is perfect as Paddington. Despite the top notch CGI, his voice brings a charming innocence to the little fella. Bonneville is hilarious as the ever cautious Mr. Smith, Sally Hawkins is the kind and caring Mrs. Smith who takes Paddington in. Samuel Joslin as the charismatic astronaut wannabe and Madeline Harris as the moody Judy Brown. Plus there’s Julie Walters as Mrs. Bird and Peter Capaldi as the eccentric Mr. Curry. I heard he was the villain in the books, here it’s Nicole Kidman, more on that later.
However, the real star here is director Paul King mostly known for The Mighty Boosh. He finds a perfect balance of comedy and emotion with a few brilliant artistic flourishes to add. Such as a scene where Paddington is describing the family to his aunt Lucy, (Imelda Staunton) a dollhouse opens up and the camera moves in between each room with said characters in each. Or when Jim Broadbent’s’ Mr. Gruber tells Paddington of his own arrival to London from Nazi Germany. It’s touching and better seen than described here.
One flaw I must address though is with Nicole Kidman’s villainous Millicent, a taxidermist who works for the Natural History Museum. Personally I felt the character, not the actress, the character was unnecessary. Do we really need life and death situations in every film? Especially in a kids film? There’s enough conflict with a bear trying to make it in London alone, no need for the threat of becoming an exhibit.
I brought the subject up with a few that have grown up with the books and they agreed. Not to say Kidman isn’t effective, she gives it her all and the character is sort of interesting, but as I said, not necessary. I would have preferred the filmmakers kept with the tone of an immigrant trying to get accustomed to the big city. Still just a minor complaint for I am sure the kids will love it, then again, they did. The ringing in my ears, a few hours later proves that.
As for the rest of the film, seasoned moviegoers will be able to predict how, when what and why will happen but I guess all films of this kind need to follow that formula. Throughout the film though I did keep thinking, why the hell anyone isn’t questioning or amazed at the fact there’s a goddamned bear who can talk. I kept waiting for that character to yell “holy shit this bear is talking” but none of it came. Maybe there’s a theme about acceptance or something along those lines. Or it’s a kid’s movie and kids don’t judge and question as much as we do.
A warm and fuzzy treat for all the family. Those that have grown up with the books will get that sense of nostalgia while the kids will love the slapstick and heartfelt moments. To say King and co have captured the essence of the books well? I can’t say because I never read them, (I know I had a dark childhood…anyway) but as someone who has never read the books, this movie has made me want to.
Director: Paul King
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Sally Hawkins, Colin Firth, Hugh Bonneville, Jim Broadbent, Julie Walters
Running Time: 95 minutes
Release Date: 28th November 2014