Having made his first appearance in 1958, Michael Bond’s beloved creation, Paddington Bear, is given new life in this wonderful big screen adaptation. Beginning with footage of a 1940’s explorer that feels straight out of Pixar’s Up, we’re told how the adventurer came into contact with two bears in the Peruvian jungle and subsequently taught them British civility. Years later the two bears and their adopted young nephew are fluent English speakers with a penchant for marmalade sandwiches, living out a peaceful existence in the jungle. When disaster strikes however, the young bear must find a new home and travels to London, where the explorer had promised his family a warm welcome. Arriving at Paddington station, he soon meets the Brown family who take him into their home temporarily, until they can find the explorer. All the while an evil taxidermist attempts to steal Paddington so she can stuff him and put him on show in London’s Natural History Museum.
Produced by David Heyman who also worked on the Harry Potter series, Paddington is equally as magical. Released at time where even the most fantastical properties are given dark and realistic makeovers, this embraces the absurdity of its own concept and therefore ends up being one of the most imaginative pieces of cinema that I’ve seen all year. Like the film’s human characters, you won’t even bat an eyelid at a talking bear wearing a red hat at Paddington station and you will believe that the central character exists. This is a comment to the film’s success, which is partly due to the creation of puppy dog eyed Paddington; you’ll want one of your own to take home with you. Stylistically, Paddington has a lot to offer, and I found the quirky direction of Paul King admirably off-beat. There are recurring motifs throughout where we see the Brown family through a doll house and the occasional appearance of a Calypso band around the streets of London that soundtrack the picture; nice little touches that hark back to King’s previous work on The Mighty Boosh.
These are just some of the fourth wall-breaking, Muppet-type moments that also include cameos galore (some more recognisable than others) from film and television. They support a truly charming main cast of Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Julie Walters and Nicole Kidman who has a lot of fun as the evil taxidermist who has all the gadgets of a Bond villain. Speaking of Bond, the new ‘Q’ Ben Whishaw also puts in an excellent voice performance as Paddington, proving that the decision to re-cast the originally intended Colin Firth was the right call. As well as a great cast and excellent visuals, it is genuinely funny with a remarkably high hit rate in terms of laughs. Even the moments that I’ve seen time and time again in the trailers still made me laugh, a rarity in this cinematic day and age.
Paddington is perfect family fare and ideal viewing for this this time of year. It maintains all of the innocence and quintessential Britishness from the original source material, but presents it in a modern day package that will appeal to both children and adults. It doesn’t play down to its younger audience, and the children in the screening I saw this with sat intently throughout, laughed in all the right places and even gasped with excited fear in the third act finale. It’s charming, imaginative and heart warming fun that is amongst the better films to have been released this year. I completely loved it and had a smile on my face from beginning to end. I dare you to watch it and not feel the same way.
Image credit to http://www.impawards.com