Film Review – Paddington (2014)

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OK so after ten years of being in this city I’m a Londoner, and a cynical one at that. Any film that makes London a lead character has the tendency to make me balk as they don’t show what is in essence the real London.  They show the picture book, Buckingham London, the one that drives the tourists to eat at the Leicester Square Aberdeen Angus Steakhouse and talk loudly on the tube about the city being quaint. This suspicion is not just limited to Hollywood, I remember being sat around with friends cursing at the inacuracies of the depiction of the London Underground in the horror film Creep, nothing is safe.

Paddington of course paints a rose tinted view of the city and shows off it’s best bits. Every shot crams in a London landmark, be it the new Routemaster bus, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, a phone booth, you get it. It’s like a London eye spy. We shouldn’t be surprised about this, Paddington IS a London story, you can’t really think of Paddington Bear without thinking London.

Admittedly I know the fault is with me, that Paddington Bear should not be approached with the cynicism that I’m incapable of shaking, and I did spend the entirety of the movie telling myself to just let it go. And when I listened to myself, and shook off the cynicism I did enjoy the film, it’s fun and at times very silly.

In the film Paddington Bear (Ben Whishaw; Cloud Atlas, Skyfall) makes the journey from “Darkest Peru” to London and ends up being taken in by the Brown family. Nicole Kidman (Before I Go To Sleep, Grace of Monaco) plays an evil taxidermist who wants to stuff Paddington (there’s always an evil taxidermist) and with the help of sneaky neighbour Mr. Curry (Peter Kapaldi; Doctor Who, In The Loop) eventually snares him forcing the Brown family to Paddington’s rescue and a showdown at the Natural History Museum.

I’d say the over-arcing story is slightly inconsequential to your enjoyment and what makes the film fun is seeing Paddington get into scrapes and interacting with the Brown family as he adapts to his new surroundings. A lot of these scenarios are very much relatable, seeing Paddington navigate the tube escalators for the first time reminded me of patiently waiting for my northern friends to work up the courage to step on, and I totally sympathise with Paddington’s frustration with pigeons.

Director Paul King is more known for his TV comedy work, most notably directing the surrealist comedy The Mighty Boosh. As a result there are lots of little comedy moments throughout, which make the film it’s own. For example you may notice a foot statue at the bottom of the stairs, it’s the foot of the stairs! And naturally there’s plenty of jokes incorporating Paddington’s main food source, the marmalade sandwich. The jokes are well placed and you can tell that Paul King has thought well and hard about pacing the film, making sure it’s in keeping with the Paddington Bear legacy.

There was a lot of hoo-har about the film’s PG rating, the main reason behind the rating is a scene where Hugh Bonneville who plays Mr Brown dresses as a woman and gets a few untoward comments from a bumbling clueless member of The Geographical Society. Let me add that Bonneville dressed as a tea lady, not a dominatrix, so I’m not really sure what BBFC’s problem was. Honestly, unless you’re NO FUN you can take your children to see the film, and you don’t want to be No FUN do you?

Talking of Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey), he’s rather entertaining in his role as Mr Brown and we see his initial skepticism about Paddington and his world-view change throughout the film. He makes a convincing woman as well as believable action hero and attacks the comedy fiercely. I’m sure Robert Crawley would be shocked and appalled by his performance, but prepare to be pleasantly surprised by the new side we see of him. Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine, Happy Go Lucky) approaches Mrs Brown with childlike optimism which is almost too ernest, however it could be argued that this is what you need to counteract Mr Brown’s character, and is quite accurate to the original books.

Despite my initial scepticism , I found the film to be overall entertaining, with it being more episodic in nature than relying on an overarching story. The film is well shot and funny with a strong overlying message of kindness, which even a cynicist such as myself can warm to. A perfect choice for a Christmas family movie.

★★

Alice Hubley

Genre:Comedy, Family  Distributor: Studio Canal Release Date: 28st November 2014  Rating: PG Director: Paul King Cast:Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Nicole Kidman, Julie Walters, Ben Whishaw

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