It begins rather wonderfully with a 1940s showreel about an explorer going to ˜Darkest Peru’ for the first time and encountering a species of bears that can talk and love marmalade. After teaching them basic English Now try saying Stratford-Upon-Avon he tells them their always welcome in London. That trip never quite happens, but they do extend the welcome to their nephew Paddington (Ben Whishaw) and after a natural disaster he finds himself alone at Paddington Station where he meets the Brown family.
The rest of the plot involves Paddington trying to find the original explorer and eventually finding a home, while trying to avoid capture at the hands of maniacal taxidermist Millicent (Nicole Kidman). But what is really impressive is just how reimagining Michael Bond’s 1970s creation in an era of modern CGI, director Paul King, most famous for directing most of The Mighty Boosh TV series creates something so quintessentially British.
There’s tea, marmalade sandwiches, rush hour commuters and even a London black cabbie. The tongue-in-cheek verbal comedy combined with a rich slapstick comedy helps to create what is one of the funniest family films in years. It understands the world through the eyes of a child, and presents a protagonist bear who is just as much an outsider as anyone in London, but one who remains polite, honest and decent throughout. Paddington is lovely in every sense of the word and a true role model in a world of anti-heroes and ˜celebrities.’
The decision to replace Colin Firth with Ben Whishaw appears to have been a wise choice as his young voice is perfectly suited to well-spoken bear. The animation, which could have proved a sticking point in the overall feel of the film is superb and the look of each individual hair on Paddington’s body is carefully rendered and sumptuously presented.
The human case give just as much to story as the titular hero, with Nicole Kidman providing a suitably nasty villain of the pantomime kind, and presents it with scenery-chewing gusto. Sally Hawkins Mrs. Brown providing the heart and Julie Walter’s Mrs. Bird providing the muscle. This is a British family to be proud of, with each bringing careful emotional heft to the film without descending too close into cheesy sentimentality.
Be warned; tears will be shed, but they every bit from a joyous expression of childhood as they are from fear or heartstring twanging. Despite this it won’t be long before you stumble on another comic scene that will have you laughing out loud. There’s even an extended scene involving cross-dressing from the brilliant Mr. Brown (Hugh Bonneville) that harks back to another classic 70s creation, the Carry On films.
It would have been so easy to create a cynical version of Paddington complete with thumb-in-the-eye jabs at how far we’ve come as a society, but instead Paul King and his crew have opted to highlight how not different we are. Paddington celebrates everything that is wonderful and dreadful about being British (There are 42 different ways of saying it’s raining in English), while simultaneously bringing a 70s creation straight back into the modern public consciousness.
All the hype around it being unsuitable for children prove false, as Paddington is something truly special for the whole family. Even more impressive than that Paddington is the finest family film in years, and children will no doubt be watching it each Christmas for years to come. Not bad for a bear with a mild marmalade addiction.