So, I’ve finally got myself round to seeing this film, after initially having prior conceptions of it looking childish and not my cup of tea, I was startled to see it getting warm reviews from sites and friends. I can quite happily go along with these outcries of positive thoughts as this family film is fuzzy, fun and rather lovely.
After a brief but not rushed introduction to deepest darkest Peru and Paddington’s aunt and uncle, we learn why young marmalade enthusiast Paddington (voiced by Ben Whishaw) comes to London to find a home. Once arriving at a station he is met and taken in by the Browns; the mother, Mary (Sally Hawkins) being more friendly about it all than stuffy safe freak Henry (Hugh Bonneville). Paddington’s mark is not only making a mark on the family as taxidermist villain Millicent (Nicole Kidman) views this polite bear as her potential prized stuffed trophy.
Clearly this heartwarming tale is centered on the plight of Paddington and how his presence can affect the quite fractured Brown family, there’s no points for guessing the outcome of the father/son and mother/daughter strain but the trip there is more than entertaining and quaint to forgive any big spoonfuls of predictability. This character, based on the very cute and much loved bear of Michael Bond’s stories is exactly that – cute and lovable.
It is an extremely British feeling film and there is nothing wrong with that, let me tell you. It’s also nice to have our capital city shot as cultural, whizzing, and as quite often the case, coated in a cold casing of rain. I think this film will work in both favours; for when the Americans receive it, they’ll view London in a different interesting light and for us in the UK who have visited Laandan town many times, it’s refreshing to have a movie let us see the city with new eyes. Paddington becomes a short furry tour guide and through his journey we see the sights and sounds of the capital in a bold, delightful and drizzly way.
Eccentricity is perfectly on point throughout, with supporting characters such as Jim Broadbent’s Samuel Gruber and Peter Capaldi’s Mr. Curry giving magical daft performances. It’s not only in character that this brilliance of eccentric excellence can be found though, it’s crafted nicely into scenes and locations. The accidental mishaps of Paddington himself are very madcap and places such as the Geographers Guild are bonkers yet believable in their insane upper class design.
Jokes are a key factor in the film, not only visually in the way Paddington bear goes about his discovery of London and the Brown house but in well scripted dialogue. The first time exchange between Mr. Curry and Millicent is Lionel Richie gold, the Britishness of family feuds, automated calls, taxi drivers, well timed speaking sat navs and oddly creepy adult material of pervy security guards. Back to the visual side of things, there’s plenty of goodies. Buckingham Palace guards reveal softer sides as well as the purpose of their tall black hats, a dog carrying Paddington makes for great literal wordplay and the repeated dirty threat of pigeon flocks is apt and amusing for people who know London.
In general the visuals of this film are smart and glossy. It’s taking an icon from the late 1950’s and planting him suitably in the modern day without losing anything. The Sherlock-esque writing that floats on screen is nicely done. Then there’s the times we hear Paddington write back to his aunt accompanied by a nifty and lovely little method to take a peek into how he sees the Browns. Their home opens up in the form of a doll house and we shift through rooms looking in like he is. The way Paddington breaks the gild of the projection and imagines being back in Peru really stirs up the emotion the video is giving the titular hero and so therefore it’s an effective way to connect even further with him, if somehow you hadn’t by that point.
The only slight dampeners lie in the far fetched escapades of Paddington. Every time he gets himself into extended scrapes it takes a lot to swallow it all. In fact the reason I was nonplussed about going to see this was because of that irritating trail featuring him in the bathroom and that goes on to become one of the worst parts of the film. It’s too silly, childish and the quicker it’s done the better. Sellotape, a brolly and bathtubs may be the only objects apart from a baguette that lead ol’ Paddo into trouble and all feel a tad too ridiculous in setting up his mistake making madness.
Some, with the blackest of hearts, may find it all a bit twee for their liking but they can shuffle back to the dark stuffy corner, because this light and bright British tale of a famous bear is charming and irresistible. Detailed in every look and performance, I can now see why it’s been getting so many great reviews. I join that bandwagon and I hope you do to.