The film industry is not against destroying childhood loves. This years Postman Pat Movie, saw Pat replaced by an army of Terminators and the Transformers series is so far removed from its toy based past, that it may as well be a different concept entirely. Therefore, it is no surprise that a few people were a bit worried about Paddington. Paddington Bear has played a part in nearly every British child’s life at some point and the idea of a soulless Hollywood take on the marmalade loving fellow is heartbreaking. Thankfully, this is far from that.
As I am sure we all know, Paddington was born and raised in deepest, darkest Peru, until circumstances dictate he must make his way to London, where his aunt assures him someone will give him a home. This is how he ends up at Paddington Station and into the life of the Brown family. That family consists of Mr Brown (Hugh Bonneville), a risk analyst who spends his days spouting the statistical likelihood of everything going wrong, Mrs Brown (Sally Hawkins) a Bohemian adventure story illustrator, who opens her arms to our small bear friend and their two children Judy (Madeleine Harris) and Jonathon (Samuel Joslin). Judy spends much of the start of the film embarrassed by the behavior of the rest of her family, while Jonathon has dreams of outer space and adventure. Into this mix is thrown Paddington, (voiced by Ben Whishaw) who despite being constantly well-meaning, is a little on the clumsy side and also an inviting target for Millicent, (Nicole Kidman) a taxidermist who would like nothing more than to see him stuffed.
All of this comes together to create a film that already feels like a family classic. It has the kind of warm heart that is perfect for dark winter nights and a sense of humour that breaks down all age barriers. Ben Whishaw may have come on late, after Colin Firth’s ‘conscious uncoupling’ from the role, but he has Paddington down to a tee. His voice has a mixture of childhood naivety and yet just enough wisdom to distance him from his young companions. While Hugh Bonneville and Sally Hawkins are wonderful as the struggling parents. They represent an idealised couple, so different, but yet so together and while such idealism may seem cheesy in other films, here it works perfectly. Elsewhere, Nicole Kidman is fantastically evil, as she clanks around in her high heels, seducing nosey parker neighbour Mr Curry, who Peter Calpaldi is obviously having a great time playing, in order to help her get her hands on that beer.
There has obviously been some ridiculous controversy as to the fact this got a PG rating. The fact that some of the greatest children’s movies of all time are also PG appears to have failed to register on a lot of people’s radars. Even so, I can confirm that I saw this movie with a cinema full of children and none of them seemed too worried by the apparent innuendo. Yes, Nicole Kidman’s character is a little bit scary and there are some moments where you query if everything is going to turn out all right, but if your child can deal with any of the Disney fare, I am pretty sure they can manage this. The audience I saw it with certainly laughed all the way through and one disruptive child aside, seemed to be enraptured by what was going on on the screen. In fact, a young girl just a couple of rows in front of me was so caught up in the action that she left her seat and ended up slowly edging forward until she was actually sitting on the steps, seemingly unaware of her own movement until called back by a parent.
Paddington is a near perfect movie. Director Paul King has made it so full of heart and wonder at the world, that it is hard to do anything but love it. It is an incredibly British film that portrays London as this wonderful multi-cultural city, where a young beer from Peru can find a family that are willing to love him and as Julie Walters says, may need him just as much as he needs them. In a world so often full of mistrust and hate, it is the perfect message and whether you are a 4-year-old child or a 50-year-old one, this movie cannot fail but to make you happy.