Lovingly and respectfully updated from Michael Bond’s books and featuring a cast of British National Treasures™ including Julie Waters, Hugh Bonneville, Imelda Staunton and Jim Broadbent, Paddington is a self-consciously and ridiculously heartwarming tale. Starring a CGI bear.
The cast is very well-behaved and balanced, turning in perfect performances, even when playing against type (Peter Capaldi plays lonely nosey neighbor Mr Curry with an air of creepy desperation and a rough London accent, Jim Broadbent is enthusiastically eccentric unspecified Eastern European Mr Gruber, Nicole Kidman is clipped and severely-wigged super-villain Millicent Clyde). The slapstick sequences that frequently occur around Paddington – such as his disastrous attempt to “freshen up” on his first night in the Brown’s bathroom, which results in the destruction of said bathroom and Paddington sliding down the stairs in the Brown’s bathtub – are again carefully choreographed.
London is also on its best behavior. There are red buses, black cabs, numerous shots of the city’s landmarks and skylines as well as well as a climactic scene set in the majestic Natural History Museum. And the Browns live in a ridiculously magnificent house on ‘Windsor Gardens’ with many floors and a spectacular staircase.
Technically the film is also well done, and the CGI Paddington interacts effortlessly with the human cast and physical city. There is a lot of physical comedy for the computer generated hero to deliver and there are no visible joins in the seamless scenes.
But it’s still a lot of fun.
The overpowering perfection is forgotten as the adventure unfolds. Marmalade-loving Paddington journeys to London when his home in Darkest Peru is destroyed by a storm, with nothing but a marmalade sandwich under his hat (“for emergencies”), and the belief that he will find a family to take him in. Having been roundly ignored by busy Londoners at Paddington station, he meets the Browns who agree to take him in temporarily, and our adventure is set.
Paddington and the Browns embark on what they believe is a quest to track down the explorer who Paddington remembers visited his aunt and uncle in Peru, and who is the only ‘family’ Paddington can think of; but which swiftly turns into their own journey of self-discovery and the realization that they have become the bear’s real family. Along the way there is much humour, slapstick action and human folly and noble moments. There is also genuine danger as icy Millicent wants to stuff Paddington and display him in the Natural Museum, which involves sharp implements and nastiness.
Paddington is a triumphant film, with worthy heroes, a scary villain and colourful and comedy characters and situations. All the silly sequences are perfectly executed and everything tells a neat story where all the elements have their place. It is an immensely uplifting tale with unlikely triumphs, big and small victims and the victory of love, family and marmalade over selfishness, greed and taxidermy.
In short, it is a film that makes you proud to be human. Or ursine.
Paddington is out on Blu-ray and DVD on 23 March. Buy from Amazon
Review by Esther Sadler.