DVD REVIEW: PADDINGTON / CERT: PG / DIRECTOR: PAUL KING / SCREENPLAY: PAUL KING / STARRING: NICOLE KIDMAN, HUGH BONNEVILLE, BEN WHISHAW, PETER CAPALDI / RELEASE DATE: MARCH 23RD
Paddington, the perennially polite permanently imperilled bear, is one of the touchstones of British pop culture. When a live-action movie was announced, the reaction was one of excitement and concern. All too often CGI versions of beloved children’s characters have been brought to the silver screen, only to utterly fail as audiences can’t connect with the main character.
Our movie begins in deepest darkest Peru, where we learn exactly how a species of exotic talking bear comes to learn all about English manners. Cleverly, we see Paddington and family in their natural environment and the CGI’d creatures are a cunning mix of real-looking creature and movie magic. They also look very similar to the drawings in the original children’s books, and this combination sells the viewer on the existence of this most exotic of bears.
A natural disaster means that Paddington has to drop his Aunt Lucy off at the Home for Retired Bears and make his way to England. It’s interesting to note that in the world of Paddington, Peru knows enough about its talking bears that it’s sorted out welfare for them yet hasn’t mentioned their existence to the rest of the world. This is just as well, as we’d be missing half the plot of the movie otherwise. The story is not about the bear’s power of speech; modern Londoners being the stalwart types that they are, take the existence of a talking bear with a natty red hat with their usual sense of nonchalance. Rather, it is about how a foreign stranger, in need of help, transforms the lives of a family for the better.
Part of the movie’s genius is reimagining Michael Bond's original post-war refugee allegory into a tale of UK immigration, one made especially poignant by the bear’s expectations of what English life is when compared to the ‘reality’. This, combined with a running gag of a Calypso band popping up every once in a while to deliver a tune that is appropriate to the plot, paints a charming picture of modern Britain whilst gently making key points about strength through diversity.
It’s only a matter of time before the bear ends up with his famous blue duffle coat. Though no red wellies; the movie is based on the earlier books after all. Director Paul King really does stay very loyal to the spirit of the books, carefully balancing the sort of slapstick that only movies can provide with the orangey sweetness of the original work.
Nicole Kidman plays Millicent, a villainous archivist who, upon learning that a rare marmalade munching ursine is in London, decides that the best course of action would be to employ her taxidermy skills on the poor wee bear. Her scenery chewing evil is a little much for very small children and you can see why it’s a PG rather than a U. Peter Capaldi turns in a strong performance as a small-minded, cranky old man who fears outsiders. Apart from Paddington himself (voiced by the gloriously earnest Ben Whishaw), the show is stolen by Hugh Bonneville, who gets Mister Brown spot on, mixing in fatherly concern with conservative values to produce someone who desperately needs a small furry friend to make them enjoy life.
The DVD comes with a handful of extras - no commentary (which is a pity) and a small number of documentary pieces that don’t really give you an insight into the movie besides making it clear that everyone involved had fun.
Paddington is a solid piece of family entertainment. Adults will be drawn in by the storytelling, clever directing and magical realism. Kids will find it hilarious every time the fuzzy fiend causes anarchy. This is a movie made with a great deal of love, and unless you have a heart of stone, you’ll love it as well.
Special Features: Three featurettes / Gallery
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