Starring: Sally Hawkins, Hugh Bonneville, Julie Walters, Madeleine Harris, Samuel Joslin, with Nicole Kidman and Ben Whishaw.
Run Time: 91 minutes
Extras: Meet the Characters, When a Bear Comes to Stay, From Page to Screen, Gallery
When I first heard the rumours of the PADDINGTON adaptation for the big screen, I wasn’t in opposition to the idea but wasn’t convinced they’d do Michael Bond’s wonderful books and Peggy Fortnum’s illustrations justice. Paddington Bear is an adored element of British upbringing and sometimes films can lose that purity and appeal when they’re out there for the whole world to see. Thankfully, with Harry Potter producer David Heyman behind the work alongside director Paul King, they’ve creatively concocted a quite fantastic family film that brings all the spirit alive.
For those who don’t know the story, it all centres on a rare, very polite young bear that travels from darkest Peru to London after an Earthquake hits his home and his Aunt can no longer care for him. Trained in all things British, or so he thinks, he stows away on a ship in London and heads to Paddington Station because he’s read that people there will instantly give him a home. Sadly, the world has changed since the guides he had from the War and no one stops to help…until Mrs Brown spots him and offers him a bed for the night.
Director Paul King, best known for his work with The Mighty Boosh, has found the heart of Paddington combined with a stellar cast that shines from beginning to end. Hugh Bonneville is perfect as Mr Brown, the husband and father of the family who takes a while to remember that not everything has to be safe and secure all the time in order for life to carry on as normal, well, as ordinary as you can with a bear in family. The kids of the family, played by Samuel Joslin and Madeleine Harris, bring a purity of hope in a world usually drowned in disrespect and moody teenagers but the star of the family is definitely Sally Hawkins. Her unique presence as Mrs Brown, with all her kindness, hope and happiness is an inspired casting choice and once again shows how talented Hawkins is.
There’s also a spot for Julie Walters who plays an important and hugely amusing role as housekeeper Mrs Bird plus co-starring roles for Matt Lucas, Jim Broadbent and an unexpectedly fun turn from Nicole Kidman as the evil Natural History Museum taxidermist who’s out to capture and stuff Paddington for her own collection. Of course, Paddington Bear’s voice is the biggest, most important part to get right and Ben Whishaw brings him to life and, boy, it fits well. It now makes sense why Colin Firth dropped out earlier on because Whishaw’s polite Britishness and younger inclination is ideal for our beloved bear.
PADDINGTON has all the right elements for a classic family film for years to come but the memorable moments for me are when they blend animation with the reality. The creative juices here really flow and it’s quite beautiful to behold. King’s combination with the emotions in the house via the tree in the stairwell and the dollhouse in the attic that plays out the story of what’s happening are captivating, and the one that stands out for me was the truly emotive walk by Paddington into the movie screen. All these things merge together to embody the hopefulness and dream-like world that they inhabit but also manage to keep it on steady ground with reflection and honesty. It’s all very British and quite bloody marvellous.
[usr=4] PADDINGTON is released on Blu-ray and DVD on 23rd March. Pre-order now.