Cert: PG / 95 mins / Dir. Paul King
I won't lie to you, when I first heard that a live-action Paddington film was being made, my heart sank a little, and seeing the prospective cast list did nothing to change my mind. Thankfully, the first full trailer gave me a little reassurance that things were on the right track, and I'm happy to report that it's an excellent snapshot of the film itself.
After a localised earthquake forces young Paddington from his home in darkest Peru, the young bear finds himself stowing away on a ship, hoping to meet with the kindly explorer who befriended his guardians forty years previously. Bound for London armed only with the knowledge that his aunt and uncle have given him of the world's most polite and courteous city, Paddington finds that the years have not been kind to that reputation...
Paddington may well be the most charming film I've seen this year. Beautifully animated, genuinely funny and heartwarmingly silly. A family adventure film in the truest sense, Michael Bond and director Paul King have written a thing of great beauty, and it's brought to life by a cast who (largely) play the screenplay straight rather than patronise the younger audience (naturally Nicole Kidman's Millicent is more the cartoon villain, but that's what the part calls for). Hugh Bonneville and Sally Hawkins pretty much steal the show as Mr & Mrs Brown, with Ben Whishaw's Paddington being just on the right side of sweetly loveable.
But as I said it's not all saccharine, and the film's trump card is its inherent playfulness (and Hugh Bonneville dressed as a cleaning lady like a latter-day Ronnie Barker, flirting with Simon Farnaby*1). The greatest example of this being that no-one really questions a talking bear. It's commented upon, certainly, but at no point does anyone freak the hell out over it. And when the characters buy it, so do the audience.
On the downside, the film's relatively delicate allegory for immigration and integration is pretty much undermined in one scene between Nicole Kidman's evil taxidermist and Peter Capaldi's nasty-neighbour, Mr Curry. It's no biggie, but feels like the one part of the script which wasn't proofread, somehow. There's also a nice bit of product placement for First Great Western in the film too, although I suspect that the scene set last thing at night in Paddington Station was meant to be in the early evening, but they ended up having to wait for the train to come in ;)
You'd have to be some kind of heartless monster to get nothing out of this film; go and see it.
It pretty much is.
I did indeed.
I think it certainly does.
A family outing to the cinema is certainly called for, but you won't lose much if you decide to watch it at home in four months' time.
Maybe a little.
I will, but probably not at the cinema.
There isn't, although there *is* a brief Die-Hard reference. And an Indiana Jones reference. Well, two actually, if you include the fridge. Which I do.
Can we somehow stop Michael Gambon from doing voice-roles, though please? It's one thing when he's on-screen refusing to be anything other than Michael Gambon™, but his 'no job is beneath me' attitude to voiceovers has cheapened his own brand to the point where his Uncle Pastuzo character just sounds like an overly-smug TV advert for HSBC. Or that Sky ad which ran directly before the film.
*1 Yet despite having one of the film's most tear-inducing comedy sequences, Farnaby isn't credited on the film's IMDB page. What gives there?
• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
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