With Paddington 2 hitting UK theatres last weekend and opening to glorious reviews with box office numbers to match, there isn’t a much better time to revisit the first entry and see if it still holds up.
Released in 2014, Paddington is the adaptation of the much-loved children books written by Michael Bond. Directed by Paul King of The Mighty Boosh fame, the story sees our titular bear leave his native “Darkest Peru” and travel to London where he is taken in by the Brown family who offers to help him find a new home.
Paddington is voiced to perfection by Ben Whishaw (replacing the original casting, Colin Firth). He delivers lines with such a childlike naivety that it’s hard not to “awwww” out loud every time he speaks. The Paddington Station Scene is one such example when asked what he is going to do to, our titular bear calmly responds with “Well I thought I would probably just sleep over there in that bin”
King puts his characters in a mash-up of modern and fable-like London. He directs with such a Christmas Card beauty that it’s easy for his visual trickery to go unnoticed. He creates a London that sadly doesn’t exist, one that can only be viewed through a snow globe (as it briefly is in the film – an example of his visual trickery) and it’s hard not to be a little disappointed by that notion. But who fills this fairy tale version of London that our bear must navigate through and understand?
We have the patriarch of the Brown Family, played by Hugh Bonneville (taking a break from Downton Abbey) whose job as a Risk Assessment Officer is sure to clash with the clumsy guest that he begrudgingly agrees to stay. It’s the scenes between Henry Brown and Paddington that draw the biggest laughs. It’s Basil Fawlty and Manuel stuff if Manuel happened to be a talking bear. Henry Brown desperately trying to upgrade his home insurance so it includes bears is one such example. They are chalk and cheese and their slapstick routine is sure to draw laughs from even the biggest cynic.
His sweet and kind-hearted wife, Mary (Sally Hawkins) is an illustrator who dreams of adventure, fantasy and the man that she fell in love with before marriage and children made her husband so regimented. Her sketches coming to life are another example of how well Paul King directs here. His Raymond Briggs like animation delivers backstory without you even realising it. Youngest child Jonathan (Samuel Joslin) is fascinated by the family’s new guest whilst his older sister, Judy (Madeline Harris) is deeply embarrassed by the whole ordeal.
It’s a family that is disjointed, a little out of place with each other because of each member’s different paths. How they all interact with Paddington and how he comes to be a part of the family is just a small part of the charm and warmth to be found here. But not everyone can fall for our bear’s charms. The Boo-Hiss villain mantle is taken by nonother than Nicole Kidman who plays the evil taxidermist (because of course, a taxidermist is going to be a bear’s worst enemy). Kidman is having the time of her life playing the Cruella de Vil like Millicent with a blonde bob and knee-high boots. She doesn’t get a great deal to do because wisely the film is all about Paddington and how he melts the hearts of everyone around him.
It may have been a worry that Paul King would have brought some of his Mighty Boosh style comedy to this family film but nothing could be further from the truth. There are Marx Brothers comedy routines to be found here, (Paddington’s first experience with plumbing being the obvious one) and it’s sure to get a laugh out of children and adults watching. There are no sly jokes that only adults will snigger at. The jokes are all verbal and visual and it’s is pitch-perfect stuff for all the family.
It isn’t a spoiler or a criticism to say that Paddington offers no surprises or twists and that is because it really doesn’t need any. There aren’t enough superlatives to describe how lovely Paddington really is. Warm? Check. Pleasing? Check. Enduring? Check. Delightful? Check. Fun for all the family? Check Mate. It’s quiz-essentially British but like the Harry Potter films before it, sure to appeal to global hearts.
Many adaptations of children’s books try too hard to modernise themselves and appeal to a wider audience, Paddington wears it’s heart on its Marmalade stained sleeve and couldn’t be more proud to do so. Yes, the plot is broad strokes but there is nothing wrong with that when it’s this well painted. The nation may have just found itself a new option for it’s Christmas Day movie. Paddington wears a note that says “Please look after this Bear”. That’s pretty sound advice.
Are you a fan of Paddington? What did you think of the sequel? Let us know.