Now here’s a family film that does an awful lot of things right. Based on Michael Bond’s books, Paddington brings Peru’s most famous bear to the screen, courtesy of a CG creation in the midst of a live action world.
Boasting the voice of Ben Whishaw (a relatively late replacement for Colin Firth), we’re introduced to Paddington in an outstanding opening ten minutes, where his world is pretty much turned upside down. Through a series of events, and a tragedy, he ends up alone, at Paddington Station. Where nobody seems interested in him at all.
That is until the Brown family walk by. Hugh Bonneville’s Mr Brown isn’t much of an initial fan, but it’s Samuel Joslin’s Jonathan Brown who instantly warms to Paddington, and off they go to the London suburbs. It must be quite a posh bit though. Their house is quite glorious, and Peter Capaldi lives next door.
Trouble soon ensues of course, as Paddington’s innocent clumsiness sits at the heart of some wildly entertaining sequences. It would be safe to say that if you were looking for someone to sit and give you advice on how to play something like Metal Gear Solid, Paddington Bear would not be much use.
But for entertaining a family audience? He’s far, far more suited.
What makes Paddington feel different from the bunch of family films that content themselves with flashing images before children while their parents play Candy Crush is that somebody bothered. Lots of people bothered, more to the point. In particular, you can’t help but salute director Paul King, of The Mighty Boosh and The Bunny And The Bull vintage. He lavishes his film with detail, with little moments that many simply wouldn’t bother with. Delivering material that frequently works on two levels, his film invests heavily in character, giving small moments to most of the key players in the cast. Any film that also finds a bit of room for Alice Lowe is very welcome in our book, too.
King injects Paddington’s adventures with a consistent collection of funny moments, and he banks so much goodwill that even come the big showdown moments near the end – at the point where the film is just a little less interesting – it’s never less than entertaining.
At times, Paddington feels a bit like Babe: Pig In The City, just without the animal torture. King ensures that there are darker moments here, certainly, and Nicole Kidman’s exquisite villain, the taxidermy-obsessed Millicent, may have a few younger viewers holding fingers to their eyes. But framed through the innocent, warm eyes of Paddington, there’s always something for the anklebiters to cling onto.
A nice surprise, this. From the newsreel opening, to the adhereance to the spirit and tone of Michael Bond’s books, Paddington proves that you can be faithful to source material, whilst expanding a story out onto a cinema screen. Even worries of a CG Paddington are soon dissipated, thanks to an emphasis on effects work that blends, rather than shows off.
Charming, full of heart and with plenty to enjoy, Paddington manages not just to sustain the interest for the majority of its running time, but heavily entertain as well. This particular bear has been well looked after…
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