They had better get this right, thought this under-the-bedclothes torch-lit-reading child with fond memories of the adventures of Michael Bond’s bear from Peru – and they so have…
The film has PG rating, which caused some scorn on release. It’s terrific family fun, with cross dressing, innuendo, dangerous stunts and lots and lots of mess in the finest panto tradition.
We’re in an alternate universe London, a city of candy coloured Georgian terraces where the bears can talk and the Geographers hang out in a steampunk palace. It’s lovely to look at, with beautiful state of the art CGI bears.
Funny, cheeky, slightly saucy, the writing’s at ease with some deeply serious stuff about loss, immigration and the lot of refugees, the fantasy versus reality of the not so gold-paved streets of London an underlying theme. Skirting towards the preachy just the once, in Mr Brown’s big speech, it nicely undermines itself at exactly the right moment and wins another of the film’s many big laughs.
It’s packed with great performances. Ben Wishaw’s (Skyfall) boyish enthusiastic innocence suits the optimistic young Paddington Bear, Sally Hawkins’ (An Education) Mrs Brown charms as a hand-knitted eccentric with a yearning for a hero and Jim Broadbent’s (Cloud Atlas) genial Mr Gruber is a gentle reminder of a Kindertransport past. Peter Capaldi (Dr Who) delivers a deeply creepy Mr Curry and Julie Walters (Harry Potter) is rather underused as Mrs Overall’s Scottish cousin, Mrs Bird. Nicole Kidman’s (Australia) take on the Glen Close Cruella de Ville sort, while not quite in keeping with the original books, adds the requisite cinematic note of conflict and peril (but does any actress really need four assistants?) Hugh Bonneville’s (The Monuments Men) the stand-out hit of the film, having a ball as he romps along from dull risk-averse stuffed shirt, via saucy Mr Toad-style charlady dressing-up to reluctant action star. Look out for a sweet fleeting appearance from Mr Michael Bond himself.
And the pop up West Indian band fits right in.
Paddington‘s quite rightly the hit of the Christmas cinema menu, and I’d be surprised if there wasn’t another in the works pretty soon.
Director: Paul King
Writers: Paul King, Hamish McColl
Genre: Adaptaion, Childrens, Adventure
Running time: 95 mins
Cast: Ben Whishaw (voice), Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Nicole Kidman, Peter Capaldi, Julie Walters.