Paddington Review

When Paddington Bear first appeared in 1958 as Michael Bond’s literary creation, the anthropomorphic bear would have been an unlikely candidate to be skateboarding 56 years later in a CGI blockbuster. Yet Paddington stays reasonably true to the original character’s understated charm, without straying into the murky territory one fears when children’s films rely on talking animals. There is a real sense of nostalgia and fondness towards a bear swapping deepest, darkest Peru for London.Director Paul King, who made his name shooting The Mighty Boosh, shapes another alternate reality infused with childlike wonder – no one bats an eyelid at a well-spoken bear slouching on a train platform. Paddington’s polite tones come courtesy of Ben Whishaw (after Colin Firth dropped out during production) and is the softly spoken voice one might imagine from the books. At least, it fits in with the character’s immaculately rendered animation – appropriately cartoonish, not slapdash – with the detail evident in any close-ups of his fur.imagePaddington’s integration with the real world benefits from the casting of Hugh Bonneville and Sally Hawkins as Mr and Mrs Banks, the parents of the family who take Paddington into their homes – initially for one night, then longer when they fall for his fuzzy charms. Bonneville is appropriately flustered with the bear, as if dealing with any old miscreant, whereas Hawkins sympathises with the plight of being far away from home. But even better is Nicole Kidman as a comically evil taxidermist, channelling her memorable role from To Die For, peppered with a Hitchcockian Cruella de Vil.Bridging these figures is an action-packed arc – complete with a 5-minute skateboarding sequence – which are, to be honest, not for me; they’re understandably unavoidable, but also subtract from the droll character interactions. Still, these stunts are made bearable by comedian cameos: the likes of Alice Lowe, Peter Capaldi and Matt King manage to steal scenes with just a few lines. The succession of recognisable faces is redolent of Wes Anderson, whose fingerprints are all over the design, particularly when the family home is treated like a dollhouse – it’s one of the few Anderson imitations that don’t make you paw your eyes out.With an underlying theme of London as a cultural melting pot, Paddington is a pleasant addition to the list of films that will inevitably play on TV every Christmas for the next few decades. Paddington is, unlike Seth Macfarlane’s Ted, someone you’d welcome into your home.



out of 10

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