“I’m going to stuff you, bear”
A rather unexpectedly lovely surprise from the end of last year whose key message of acceptance of foreigners feels ever more pertinent in the current circumstances. Paul King’s Paddington, based on Michael Bond’s classic creation, has that warm feel of a classic family film, full of set-pieces and humour and a deal of minor peril, but none so much as to really make you scared. Instead, there’s a glowing happiness that almost (sadly) feels as old-fashioned as a marmalade sandwich.
As if you didn’t know, Paddington comes from darkest Peru and a wittily filmed black and white prologue shows us how a British geographer called Montgomery Clyde befriended his family in the jungle, eventually leaving with a promise of a place to stay should they ever visit London. When circumstances conspire to leave Paddington alone on a railway platform in W2, he’s taken in by the Brown family and capers ensue.
Ben Whishaw voices Paddington with a gorgeous air of charming wonderment and the CGI looks genuinely great. King clearly loves a set-piece as the energy of the film largely goes into these but as the bear wreaks havoc in the bathroom, then the kitchen, it is cleverly and wittily done. Sally Hawkin’s compassionate Mary and Hugh Bonneville’s long-suffering Henry make good pseudo-parents and as the ever-present Mrs Bird (as in wise old…) Julie Walters is vivid if underused.
Nicole Kidman is deliciously good fun as the villainous taxidermist Millicent, aided by Peter Capaldi’s misguided nosy neighbour and the spirit of the whole film remains so good-natured throughout, it seems impossible not to fall in love with it. My favourite randomest moment was when they were on the tube though, as a poster for the late (not quite) lamented Damned By Despair popped up briefly, a rather hilarious mention for the National Theatre there.
The only minor criticism I had, because there’s always something, was it really bugged me that Sally Hawkins was lumped with Hugh Bonneville as a husband, she’s over 10 years younger and could do way better than him (I don’t watch Downton Abbey so that effect is lost on me). And I suppose there’s something a little bit dodgy about the fact it is a bearskin-sporting guard who helps Paddington out with his snacks, is he actually fattening the bear up for his next piece of headwear?!
Otherwise though, as good a family film as has been released in recent years.