22nd Mar2015

‘Paddington’ Review

by Paul Metcalf

Stars: Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent, Peter Capaldi, Nicole Kidman, Ben Whishaw, Imelda Staunton, Michael Gambon, Madeleine Harris, Samuel Joslin, Matt Lucas | Written and Directed by Paul King


When characters from children’s television shows are translated onto the silver screen sometimes the results aren’t exactly positive.  Paddington is one of the movies where I would admit I was cynical and didn’t expect much, especially because of the age of the actual show.  Then a little magical viral madness took over and the spectacle of the “Scary Paddington” took over and it was perfect to get the bear noticed, showing how awesome the internet can be.  The fact is even without the crazy internet people, Paddington turned into something surprising and very charming.

When Paddington arrives in London looking for a home the Brown family agree to help him, letting him stay with them until he finds what he is searching for.  When an evil taxidermist discovers the rare Peruvian bear is in London though she begins to hunt him down, finding him a perfect fit for her museum display.

Although Colin Firth was originally cast to voice Paddington, Ben Whishaw plays the part perfectly making the character his.  The bear may have looked scary at one time, but now it’s easy to be charmed by him as well as the rest of the cast.  Just looking at the list of actors including Hugh Bonneville, Imelda Staunton, Michael Gambon, Sally Hawkins, Julie Walters and Jim Broadbent is a hint of what makes Paddington work, and that is the Britishness of the movie.  Sometimes this is a little too much though, especially when it starts to feel like an advertisement for London…though thankfully this doesn’t last too long as it is only used to show Paddington’s excitement about arriving in the city and his rose-tinted view of it.

The fact is Paddington, the movie and the bear are very charming and it’s easy to get drawn into the story of a young animal just looking for a home.  In a style taken straight out of Disney we have the perfect nemesis in the form of Millicent played by Nicole Kidman.  She is very much a Cruella De Ville character and Kidman plays the part with a certain relish in her evilness.  We also can’t ignore the fact that Peter Capaldi is also in the movie as the nosy neighbour Mr. Curry, and he is always reliable to put in a good performance.

What Paul King as writer and director seems to understand with Paddington is that even if this is a bear from darkest Peru, the character and his story is very much British and has that mythical and somewhat stereotypical charm some believe the country has.  We never question the fact that this is a talking bear, or that people don’t react as you would expect them to in the presence of a wild creature.  Paddington is a magical fairy tale which works in the same way movies like Nanny McPhee do.  It’s not about reality it is more about the magic, and how just one character can make a difference to so many lives.

Paddington defeats cynicism because of its charm, and like the marmalade Paddington loves so much, it is sweet, though thankfully it never goes into the territory of being too sweet.  The movie works on levels that can be compared to the good old Disney movies, working on the same themes of family and that is its main strength.  One of the best children’s movies in recent years Paddington defies expectations and manages to be a very enjoyable movie.

***** 5/5

Paddington is released on DVD and Blu-ray on March 23rd.

Review originally posted on PissedOffGeek

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