Director: Paul King
Cast: Ben Whishaw, Hugh Bonnevile, Sally Hawkins, Nicole Kidman
Running time: 95 mins
Release date: November 28th
In the immediate wake of Transformers 4 and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, many may be suffering from a cynical preparation to write off any re-adaptations of treasured childhood properties. As such, they are most likely expecting to enjoy Paddington to the extent they would enjoy the experience of an actual loose bear in a London train station. Well, prepare to have those preconceived notions challenged, as it has almost unbelievably transpired that Paddington is really rather good.
Director Paul King is an alumnus of The Mighty Boosh, and borrows a little of the absurdity (and a few cast members) from that show. This, combined with some Wes Anderson-esque sequences and a strong sense of its ‘tally-ho!’ British identity, make this an unexpectedly kooky, charming and very funny film. It’s often expected with these types of films that the cast are in it for a buck or doing ‘one for the kids’, but Bonneville and Hawkins commit endearingly to their roles, as do current Doctor Peter Capaldi and villainous Nicole Kidman.
Holding it all together though is, of course, the bear. The CGI that brings Paddington to life is truly extraordinary, especially as one imagines that this wasn’t made with a Michael Bay budget. It is Ben Whishaw’s gentle, naive and wondrous voice performance, however, that invokes Paddington with his irresistible warmth and adorability. His lines and their delivery are often hilarious and he plays the fool who watches things go wrong in the great British tradition of Mr. Bean and Basil Fawlty. The laughs don’t come from Paddington alone however; many recognisable Brit comedians such as Alice Lowe and Simon Farnaby have funny moments and the sequence which explains the origin of Bonneville’s uptightness will be hilariously familiar to dads in the audience.
The film succeeds in the same way as unexpectedly great The Lego Movie did earlier this year; for all its artifice, the emotional ideas feel real and it explores problems faced by everyone. It alludes interestingly to the plight of immigrants in Britain, but never pushes the issue to the extent you worry it might. Yes, some of the set pieces are eye-rollingly farfetched and the villain’s motives aren’t exactly reasonable but, when thoughts like these occur, simply remind yourself that you’re watching a film based on a children’s story and set in a world where a talking bear is rarely afforded a second glance on the street; that should clear things up. It’s unchallenging, predictable and perhaps overly sentimental, but it’s Christmas and for some reason that sits just fine. A trifle then, but an incredibly sweet one made with a generous helping of marmalade.