UK Release Date: 28th November 2014
Runtime: 95 minutes
Director: Paul King
Writer: Paul King
Starring: Ben Whishaw, Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Julie Walters, Nicole Kidman, Peter Capaldi, Jim Broadbent
Synopsis: Stranded alone in London after disaster strikes his natural home, an intelligent bear is taken in by a kindly London family.
It’s always tough to adapt beloved children’s characters in order to appeal to a new generation. Michael Bond’s adorable stranded bear Paddington hasn’t been around for a long time, but he now makes his big screen return with the new film from Mighty Boosh director Paul King. Thankfully, it’s a warm, witty and wonderful return for everyone’s favourite marmalade-eating friend.
Paddington (Ben Whishaw) travels to London after a natural disaster leads to him leaving his home of darkest Peru. He is picked up by Mr Brown (Hugh Bonneville) after his wife (Sally Hawkins) takes a shine to him. Whilst Paddington begins to bring the family together, an evil taxidermist (Nicole Kidman) plots to take the Browns’ new friends away.
There’s something about Paddington that is uniquely British. Drawing from his background on The Mighty Boosh, writer-director Paul King imbues the film with an offbeat humour that combines the taste of Fielding and Barratt with the gang behind Monty Python. For every kiddie-aimed dash of toilet humour, there’s a knowing immigration gag, some perfectly judged weirdness or a bit of social commentary.
| "Keep your eyes down, there’s some sort of bear. Probably selling something."
Bizarrely, Paddington has received a weird time in the press ahead of its release – first, after lead voice actor Colin Firth left the project and then as a result of its PG certification. The first issue need not have been a worry because Ben Whishaw is perfect for the title role, his voice immediately fitting the CGI creation like a glove. Whishaw’s performance is charming, sweet and often hilarious, bouncing off Bonneville and Hawkins brilliantly.
The supporting cast fare equally well, with Doctor Who headliner Peter Capaldi winning plenty of laughs as a nosey, right-wing neighbour and Matt Lucas on top form in a cab driving cameo. However, the best of the supporting players is Nicole Kidman, who chews the scenery to great effect as terrifying pantomime villain Millicent.
But the best thing about Paddington is its immigration subtext and the tender way in which it approaches that issue. The way in which Paddington meekly expects tolerance, only to be greeted as a terrifying outsider is genuinely heart-breaking. King’s script is initially damning towards the current way in which immigrants are received, but it softens as the film goes on, building towards a genuinely uplifting, heartfelt conclusion.
| "This family needs that bear every bit as much as he needs you.”
But aside from all of the subtext, it’s important to point out that Paddington is, at its most basic, an enormously entertaining family film. There’s tonnes for kids to adore and plenty for adults to enjoy too.
And if you don’t enjoy the film, there’s a fun game to be played in identifying the various Boosh, Peep Show and The Thick of It alumni in the background cast.
Pop or Poop?
Aided by Ben Whishaw’s pitch perfect voice work, Paddington is a whip-smart update of Michael Bond’s character for 2014.
Paul King updates the character with real reverence, preserving and modernising the immigration subtext deftly. He brings his offbeat sense of humour to the film as well, giving it a uniquely British feel.
Paddington is a film that certainly doesn’t deserve a hard stare.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.