Thursday, 5 February 2015

Paddington (2014)

The Bear Essentials

Director: Paul King
Running Time: 95 Minutes
Starring: Ben Whishaw, Hugh Bonneville, Nicole Kidman, Julie Walters, Peter Capaldi

Considering the history of childhood favourites being adapted for the big screen, you'd be forgiven for believing Paddington would follow suit and be a soulless, unmitigated disaster. Rest assured though, what we have here is far from being in the same vein as Alvin and The Chipmunks and Scooby-Doo.

After his home in Darkest Peru is destroyed, a young bear travels to London in search of a home. Finding himself lost and alone in a train station, he meets the Brown family, who offer him a place to stay and gift him with the name Paddington.

As the titular character, Ben Whishaw delivers a warm and polite voice performance that's perfectly suited, and injects life into the kindly, wonderfully designed bear. Hugh Bonneville injects life into a role that could be written of as the disapproving father cliché, while Sally Hawkins is a joy to watch on-screen. Jim Broadbent serves as a touching mirror image to Paddington, of being alone in an unfamiliar location. Julie Walters proves to be enjoyable whenever she pops up on-screen. It's just a shame the children come off as rather forgettable.

Nope, the cookies aren't hidden here.

Paul King does a good job directing, bringing some wonderful flourishes to the table. The sight of a dolls house opening up to reveal the Brown household is inspired, while an old film reel taking Paddington back to Darkest Peru is a beautiful moment to view. There's also a good gag involving the soundtrack, which will bring deja-vu to those who saw Birdman.

The writers make little attempts to deter the film from a formulaic script, but that honestly doesn't matter. There is a sweet charm woven into the film, and it is put on show whenever we spend time with the Brown family. It's a welcome surprise that King avoids taking the syrupy route, to deliver a genuinely adorable tale about a Bear looking for a place he can call home.

But then there's Nicole Kidman's taxidermist character. She's out to capture Paddington for her own nefarious reasons, and manages to come off as an unneeded time filler, despite the actress clearly relishing her role. Her subplot feels unnecessary, bringing jarring tonal shifts to the proceedings. Spare a thought also for Peter Capaldi, as the current Doctor is wasted in a role that's equally superfluous.

Paddington is mostly a welcome surprise, packed with heart and sweet charm. Unfortunately, it also carries an unnecessary villain, which the film could have survived without. Nevertheless, it'll still leave you warm inside.

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