The overwhelming charm of Paddington is infectious. Michael Bond’s beloved Peruvian was born in 1958 and he’s still writing marmalade misadventures to this day, delighting children and their parents alike. The film is a splendid adaptation, keeping the delightful, uniquely British charm from the books alongside gorgeous animation. Paddington has a great sense of humour and fun. It will teach everyone something about tolerance and overcoming fear and new challenges. Paddington is a film you just want to cuddle, but it’s not exactly docile, this is a guy who comes from Deepest Darkest Peru, after all. The film emits sweetness and the right amount of fear to make youngsters that little bit stronger for having taken this bear home.
Paddington begins with his origins story, a true superhero in the making. Years ago his Peruvian family is discovered by a British explorer, who introduces this rare species to his language and marmalade. When a storm kills Paddington’s Uncle, his Aunt decides to retire and see him off to a new life in London, a mysterious land Paddington’s family have always been fascinated with since meeting the explorer. Already we’re talking about exploring some emotionally deep themes: death, grief and moving away from family, an obvious parallel to the Blitz from Bond’s books. After a hazardous journey, the anthropomorphic bear arrives at Paddington station where he meets the Brown family who provide him with a name and reluctantly, Mr Brown agrees to let him stay the night before planning to hand him over to ‘the authorities’.
Ben Whishaw took over from Colin Firth for Paddington’s voice duties after Firth confirmed an ‘unconscious uncoupling’ with the bear and the decision has been justified. Whishaw gives Paddington a lovable innocence and young bearish quality which matches the furry exterior endearingly. Hugh Bonneville and Sally Hawkins make for a perfect Mr and Mrs Brown, with Bonneville particularly memorable as the bumbling risk-analyst unsure of the sensibleness of letting a bear take up residence. There’s been some controversy over Paddington’s PG rating for ‘mild sex references’ which has since been downgraded to ‘innuendo’. Whatever ‘innuendo’ there might be, it’s far milder than anything you’re likely to see over panto season. There is mild threat with a Cruella de Vil-type villain (Nicole Kidman) intent on adding Paddington to her taxidermy collection, incidentally not painting the Natural History Museum in the rosiest of lights. She could well produce some tears and fears, but fear is an experience which will only make children stronger from experience. Sometimes it’s good to scare children when so much of society is intent on wrapping them up in a bubble.
There’s also a lovely production design which makes the era impossible to pin down, like an amalgamation between 1958, the present and everything in the middle. It’s reminiscent of Wes Anderson, without being quite so excessive. It’s just gorgeous and delicate to admire. It’s a great time for the family and kids will be better for having seen it, which is what makes this so much more special than the average cuddly furred animation.
Review by David Rank
Paddington is out on 28th November and 11th January in the US . Running time 95 mins. Certificate PG (UK).