Director: Paul King
Starring: Ben Whishaw (v), Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Nicole Kidman
Release Date (UK): 28th November, 2014
“Stranger danger, there’s some sort of bear over there. Probably selling something…” – Mr Brown
Director Paul King (The Mighty Boosh) teams-up with Harry Potter producer David Heyman to bring Michael Bond’s beloved Paddington Bear to life in his very own live-action feature film. Starring Ben Wishaw (Skyfall) as the popular marmalade-obsessed hero, the movie re-tells the story of Paddington’s first encounter with the kindly yet dysfunctional Brown family. Upon his arrival in London, he begins to realise the city life is not as pleasant as he had imagined, while he is also pursued by a relentless taxidermist.
Paddington is, at heart, a harmless kids movie. It never tries to be anything more than a bit of fun – and, as a result, it works pretty well. Like most family features nowadays, it’s a little formulaic – burdened by a predictable story and routine family themes – but that’s not the main draw. The real magic is found in Michael Bond’s characters – expertly translated onto the big screen, retaining all their loveable quirks and personalities.
The script does a fine job at ‘updating’ Paddington Bear for the 21st Century. The emphasis on the surprisingly cold and aloof London atmosphere is particularly effective when contrasted with the warmer, more welcoming 1950s/60s setting of Bond’s early short stories. Inclusions like a moody teenager are also nice touches. It is a bit of a shame the movie didn’t draw more from its source, so as to truly capture the wonder and innocence of Paddington’s world. Needless to say, however, it still has a heart of gold.
“What this family needed, was a pinch of chaos.” – Mrs Bird
As previously stated, it’s the characters that make this film tick, and, by extension, the acting talent on display. While the ensemble cast is very impressive indeed, no performance is quite as wholesomely entertaining as Ben Whishaw’s voice work for Paddington. Naive, kind-hearted and inquisitive to the very end, Whishaw breathes life into this wonderfully animated bear with his delightful portrayal.
The supporting players are very well cast. Hugh Bonneville (Downtown Abbey) and Sally Hawkins (Happy Go Lucky) anchor the movie as the tireless Mr & Mrs Brown. Jim Broadbent (Hot Fuzz) and Julie Walters (Harry Potter) seem to have been born to play Mr Gruber and Mrs Bird respectively – their only fault is that they’re not in it enough. Sadly, the same can be said for Peter Capaldi (Doctor Who)’s Mr Curry. who is sidelined in favour of Nicole Kidman (Australia)’s hammy yet admittedly quite menacing villain.
Direction & Tone
Drawing on his past success with Come Fly With Me, director Paul King ensures that this movie is funny above all else, and it’s Paddington’s naivety and often bemusing antics that generate the most chuckles. Unfortunately, the film does suffer from being too generic. It never offers anything more than that formulaic ‘kids-movie’ story we’ve seen time and time again – and so sadly doesn’t quite hit the heights of Frozen or The Lego Movie.
- If you couldn’t tell, the Paddington books are incredibly close to my heart. As a kid, the bumbling, curious but always polite and well-meaning Paddington was a character that brought me great comfort – as well as more than a few laughs. It’s nice to see his feature film adaptation do the same here.
- I have to admit, when Colin Firth dropped out as the voice of the eponymous bear, I was a little disheartened. Flash-forward five months and I stand corrected. Ben Whishaw ended up being the perfect man for the job. Trust me.
- As a resident of London for over a year and a half now, one thing I particularly enjoyed was watching the aloof attitude of London’s commuters at Paddington Station. I would have killed to see Paddington try and start a conversation on the tube!
- I guess, in a way, this little bear was my first superhero. Kind, polite, and not afraid to show his disapproval of someone with an old-fashioned hard stare…
- Oh, and if any new viewers need an introduction to the character, give this clip a watch. It’s 90’s/00’s kids television at it’s very best: The Adventures Of Paddington Bear
Full of laughter, nostalgia and plain ol’ innocent fun, Paddington is a pleasant adaptation of Michael Bond’s beloved creation. It’s a charming if unoriginal family adventure that delivers plenty of ‘warm and fuzzies’ to the cold winter holiday season.
Result: “Quite Good”