With Disney now owning our beloved Winnie the Pooh and the horrifying memories of Postman Pat: The Movie still haunting the British public’s nightmares, it is safe to say we greet Paddington with not only open arms but with trepidation. Everyone who’s asked me about it has done so with a particular look in their eyes, a fragile desperation for me not to shatter their hopes with a scathing review. Luckily, Paddington is as magical as we all longed for it to be. It’s not perfect but like the little bear himself, this adaptation is scatty, chaotic and adorable. When a young bear makes his way from Darkest Peru to London, he is not greeted with the warm welcome he initially expects. The romanticised old-fashioned London this young bear expects turns out to be filled with cold-hearted commuters, rain and pigeons. We join the young bear on his hunt for a new home, a new family and, first and foremost, a fitting name. Paddington possibly has more British acting talent then your average Richard Curtis romp. We have Julie Walters comically shifting her eyes back and forth, Hugh Bonneville coughing awkwardly, Sally Hawkins smiling and gasping and Peter Capaldi playing the nosey, ignorant Daily-Mail-reading neighbour. It is so refreshing to watch a family Christmas movie, rated PG, that doesn’t rest on its visual humour or disrespect its source material.
Paddington is expecting 1940s London. What he gets is an amusing combination of our cynical modern capital and a tourist’s fantastical vision of all the major sights. The film cleverly highlights the transformations of London since Michael Bond first created his bear. It romanticises the city whilst also displaying a longing for yesteryear. Paddington intelligently places the original bear in a modern city where he is out of place and isolated. It is such a relief that Paddington Bear wasn’t himself modernised. All of this movie’s magic resides in the bear. His eyes, Ben Whishaw’s voice and his old-fashioned manner are relentlessly endearing. You want to take him home and make him marmalade sandwiches, for he is equally vulnerable and self-assured. Paddington is a movie our country really needs right now – a quaint reminder of how we as a society should treat and greet strangers. With both fears and anger about immigration, and UKIP’s power on the rise, now more than ever we need a reminder of how we as a developed nation should treat our visitors and occupants. Paddington also contains a whimsy that’s reminiscent of Wes Anderson and enough wit to amuse adults and children alike. There are plot issues here. Nicole Kidman plays the film’s villain in the form of a sinister taxidermist intent on stuffing Paddington bear. The film’s threatening sub-plot and its climax is terribly rushed and poorly thought-out. Obviously the film needs a problem to be solved but I would have been satisfied just watching our bear trying to find his home. Ultimately, Paddington deeply respects its source material and delivers something unique, ambitious and charming. It’s heart and humour makes Paddington the must see Christmas family movie of 2014 – it’ll warm you inside more than a mug of mulled wine.
Thanks for reading and let’s all keep supporting our beloved film industry.