Starring: Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Ben Whishaw
Genre: Comedy/ Family
After a devastating earthquake a young bear (Whishaw) leaves his home in darkest Peru and embarks on a journey to England in search of a new home where he was promised a long time ago by an English explorer that it would be the most welcoming of countries. However the city is not quite as welcoming as he imagined, but he is taken in by the Brown family who name him after Paddington train station where they find him. However as he tries to settle in with the Browns a taxidermist (Nicole Kidman) has her own evil ambitions and tries to capture Paddington.
Whenever a popular children’s TV character is given the feature length treatment I (and I am sure many others) shudder in fear at the thought of how yet another beloved character is going to be placed in a deplorable feature length film, Postman Pat being the most recent example that comes to mind. Well though Paddington does not eclipse the seemingly unparalleled high standards of 1970’s Dougal and the Blue Cat it does its character justice and is an incredibly enjoyable film that combines enough of the humour and genuine heart that all family films should, as well as being very well put together from a technical point of view.
Ultimately, plot-wise there is perhaps not that much to separate Paddington from other family films, and indeed even last year’s hideously bad Pudsey the Dog: the Movie. Of course, most films of this genre are not that heavy on plot, but that is most certainly not a problem if, like in the case of Paddington, it is well written, well made and well acted making it both genuinely hilarious and emotionally involving.
Paul King and Hamish McColl’s script is inventive with intelligent jokes and a particularly subtle and British sense of humour to proceedings. The story does have an element of substance; it incorporates themes such as the importance of family and loyalty, as well as demonstrating tolerance and sympathy to strangers from different cultures. The narrative avoids ramming these down the audience’s throat and being preachy or ever going to excessively schmaltzy moments, but because of the genuine emotional involvement and character investment the film gives us it means that we genuinely care what happens to both Paddington and the Brown family. While the writers certainly made a lot of effort with the script, crucially they were never over ambitious and stuck to the core principles of what makes for a good family film and most certainly by in large succeed in doing that.
All involved certainly make sure that all of the reported £37million is spent well with the design of Paddington wonderfully done to truly bring the character to life and this is enhanced by Erik Wilson’s bright cinematography. The voice of Paddington was originally going to be Colin Firth which did seem the ideal choice, but after he dropped out it went to Ben Whishaw which after watching the film seems like truly ideal casting and it would be impossible to imagine the voice of Paddington being performed by anyone else now. Whishaw’s vocal performance certainly only further adds to our emotional engagement with the character.
Though they may be roles that do not exactly prove to be much of a test for the big name cast, they do all put in excellent performances that add to the charm and humour of the film, in particular Hugh Bonneville and Sally Hawkins as Mr & Mrs Brown respectively. Meanwhile why Peter Capaldi is doing a dodgy Michael Caine impression is anyone’s guess, but his character is good fun. Though Nicole Kidman certainly enjoys herself and does a perfectly snarling performance, her character often feels like an antagonist put there because one is needed to provide more of a plot and attempts at giving her a back-story and justifying the motivation behind her actions are a little lame.
Though the plot and some character arcs certainly have a fair share of predictability, the genuinely well put together and enjoyable set pieces, funny script and gags, as well as characters to care about make for one of the best family films of recent times.
Paddington is most definitely a superior addition to the long list of lame TV character film adaptions of recent times; genuinely funny and emotionally engaging, basically everything a family film should be.