Film, Family and kids
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Anyone with fond memories of the books or a dusty Paddington Bear sitting on a shelf in their childhood bedroom can rest easy: this first-ever movie take on Peru’s furriest export is a cuddly, thoughtful triumph.

But not too cuddly. The beauty of this winning film from ‘Harry Potter’ producer David Heyman and writer-director Paul King (‘The Mighty Boosh’) is that it’s charmingly simple. But it also offers a sharp modern spin on Michael Bond’s London-set stories without being cynical. For kids, it’s fun, fast and sweet. For adults, it’s a parable of immigration: the story of a big-eyed outsider having his hopeful dreams challenged by the realities of the British capital. Fantasy? What fantasy?

The basics are the same: a small bear with a Marmalade habit is found at Paddington station and adopted by the nice middle-class Browns; hairy chaos and family bonding ensues. But the framing is new. There’s an ‘Up’-style preamble in Peru, sad and funny, that deals with Paddington’s aspirations to be British: ‘They will not have forgotten how to treat a stranger.’ The early mishaps when he’s taken in by Mr and Mrs Brown (Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, both excellent) and their kids are straight out of Bond’s books – an overflowing bath, slapstick on the Tube. But the danger later on is all-new, as evil taxidermist, Millicent (Nicole Kidman, devilish), concocts a plan to stuff the bear. This high drama rubs a little awkwardly against the earlier knockabout larks. But seeing as Bond filled several books with tales that can be summed up as ‘Paddington tries to make toffee’ or ‘Paddington plays cricket’, it’s hard to criticise the plot for taking a turn towards the multiplex.

Also straight out of the books is grumpy neighbour Mr Curry (Peter Capaldi), but here he’s a Little Englander, clearly racist and worrying about the bear’s ‘jungle music’. Mr Brown starts out small-minded too, sniffing at Paddington’s ‘sob story’ and encouraging his family to ignore the bear on the railway platform as he’s ‘probably selling something’. The film is a quiet two-claws-up to xenophobia on behalf of our Peruvian friend.

Visually, it’s as if the ultra lo-fi look of the 1970s TV version has been given a once-over by Wes Anderson, and then given a polish by a more populist director. There’s also a welcome sense of timelessness: it’s set now (we see The Shard), and yet no one uses mobiles or the internet. The bear himself survives his CG makeover; he’s cute and a little ragged (and beautifully voiced by Ben Whishaw). In bringing this much-loved creature to life, ‘Paddington’ oozes care, as if King and Heyman have made the label around the animal’s neck their guiding motto: ‘Please look after this bear, thank you.’ If that’s the case, it’s job done. What a relief. 

By: Dave Calhoun


Release details

Release date: Friday November 28 2014
Duration: 0 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Paul King
Screenwriter: Paul King, Hamish McColl
Cast: Nicole Kidman
Sally Hawkins
Julie Walters
Hugh Bonneville

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Average User Rating

4.6 / 5

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Chesca R

This is an incredible film, heart warming, laugh out loud funny with a beautiful message at the heart of it. The start is uncomfortable to watch and I imagine resonates a little too loudly with people visiting London for the first time but luckily it cheers up from there onwards. The special effects are so good you forget at times that paddington isn't actually a super talented talking bear. This is a gem of a movie which I am already looking forward to watching again. 

Daniele T
moderatorStaff Writer

Outstanding family film. Perfectly executed and acted. A feel good film, but never cheesy. It echoes Bridget Jones and, again, the film improves the book. Probably enjoyed it as much as my children, if not more.

Bonnie W

This is such a cute and funny film! Hugh Bonneville was a highlight, playing a very uptight Mr. Brown.