Monday, 26 January 2015

Review: Paddington

This week I am reviewing the live action screen debut of Paddington (2014), the beloved Peruvian bear from Michael Bond's books and several television series. 

Copyright: StudioCanal
First of all, I must say that I did not grow up reading the Paddington books. In fact I don't believe I have ever read one. The only memories I have of Paddington, other than the iconic teddy bear, are tiny snippets of the television series that originally ran in 70's and 80's. So, I don't know if the story and characters hold true to the original source. 

Nonetheless I did assume, as I so often foolishly do, that like so many remakes of beloved children's films, it wouldn't be very good and would stray wantonly from the source material. However, I kept hearing people say good things, and eventually went to see it yesterday.

The film follows the young bear after he is left homeless by an earthquake and sent off to London by his Aunt to start a new life there, whilst she retires to an old bears home. Once in London, Paddington meets the Brown family, lead by the extremely cautious Mr Brown, who decide to take him in temporarily. Meanwhile, a taxidermist has also heard about his arrival in the city, and plots to kidnap him, so she can stuff him. 

I thought the film was extremely charming. It makes wonderful use of visuals, using cutaways and interesting effects to help illustrate the story -  in a way that sometimes reminded me of Sherlock. For example, when Paddington is writing to his Aunt in the attic, we see the dolls house nearby open up to reveal the rooms of the actual house and the actions Paddington is describing. Whilst in another scene, when he is missing and the family are looking for him, a large tree painted on Brown's staircase wall has all its blossoms whisked off, to demonstrate the feelings of sadness, as well as the change of time and the seasons. Lots of little touches like this made the film feel and look thoughtful and delightful.

It was also enjoyable to see such an excellent British cast. Particular highlights included Peter Capaldi as Mr Curry, who after seeing him full of wild energy as Doctor Who seemed to age himself in this performance, with his dank hair and slimy movements. Whilst I was surprisingly delighted to spot Simon Farnaby, who is one of the actors from Yonderland and Horrible Histories. Of course I must not forget the stars of the film - I thought Ben Whishaw voiced Paddington beautifully, and that Hugh Bonneville and Sally Hawkins, who played Mr and Mrs Brown, were on top form as their respectively grumpy and chirpy best.  

Of course, I cannot finish this review without giving my opinion on the slight controversy that surrounded it during its release - that it given a PG rating. According to the filmmakers interviewed on Film 2014, they were quite surprised, having expected Paddington to be given a U. Whilst the classifiers argued they had done this on the basis of Nicole Kidman's scary villain. 

Well, in my honest opinion I can see the classifiers point. I thought the fact that Paddington was literally on the table unconscious whilst Kidman opened boxes of pointy instruments was quite dark. Though I'm not saying other children's characters haven't been threatened with being turned into fur coats or worse, the darker stuff is normally suggested and left off screen. And as far as I can tell the PG rating hasn't stopped Paddington from being a very popular film, with both adults and families, so I doubt it has done them much harm.

In summary
A terrifically charming film, full of lovely touches and a pleasing sense of English-ness to it, in its portrayal of rain soaked London. The main character is adorable and sympathetic, and the cast is excellent. A real treat for the whole family. 

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