Adapted from Michael Bond's universally beloved books, PADDINGTON follows the journey of an optimistic and polite young bear from Peru who travels to London in search of a home and a family. When the Brown family invites him to stay with them, little do they realise how much comic mayhem one young bear will bring to their everyday family life.
Review by Louise Keller:
It is easy to fall in love with Paddington. He's an adorable, cuddly bear from darkest Peru, who wears a well-worn pink hat, an oversize duffle coat and loves marmalade. But of course, you knew all that. Wildly entertaining, genuinely funny and exuding a heart as sticky as a marmalade sandwich, this happy film, whose furry star is the much loved character from Michael Bond's best selling children's books, is every bit as good as expected. It is refreshing in this age of special effects driven fantasies, that character drives the narrative and director Paul King has concocted a disarmingly simply screenplay with themes about family and belonging, that deals with life's every day issues while beautifully preserving the essence of the characters' Englishness.
By the time the sweet, well mannered Paddington (voiced by Ben Whishaw) arrives at Paddington Station in search of a family to adopt him, we have learned about his background and life-changing meeting with an explorer years earlier. The irony of the fact that he is sitting in front of a Lost and Found sign does not escape us. In her best role since Secrets and Lies, Sally Hawkins is delightfully kooky and disheveled as the chaotic, warm-hearted Mary who insists on taking Paddington home with the family, despite protests, from her pragmatic, risk analyst husband (played by an excellent Hugh Bonneville).
Everywhere Paddington goes, hilarious chaos follows, from his disastrous flooding of the bathroom, to discovering the hazards of escalators, skate-boards and sticky tape. Beyond the characterisations, King has incorporated a central action plot in which Nicole Kidman plays a vampy Cruella de Vil-esque taxidermist, intent on adding Paddington to her collection. 'You're stuffed, bear,' gets a big laugh. This is a good role for Kidman, who looks fabulous wearing platinum bob, sexy jungle gear and towering stilettoes. Peter Capaldi is a hoot as the busy-body neighbor Mr Curry and Julie Walter delivers a great comic turn as the vacuum-loving housekeeper, Mrs Bird with a penchant for rum.
If you are familiar with Wes Anderson's films, you will immediately recognize the doll's house miniaturization in the production design. There are many such lovely touches throughout, like the calypso band that appears intermittently while playing life-affirming music. Ben Whishaw provides the perfect voice for Paddington; the fact that the bear can talk is presented as fact and never questioned. The film is schmaltz-free, filled with laughs and rich with heart. If you're looking for a plan during the holidays, don't forget to include Paddington. You'll be so glad you did.
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CAST: Nicole Kidman, Peter Capaldi, Sally Hawkins, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent, Hug Bonneville
VOICES: Ben Whishaw, Michael Gambon, Imelda Staunton
PRODUCER: David Heyman
DIRECTOR: Paul King
SCRIPT: Paul King (created by Michael Bond)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Erik Wilson
EDITOR: Mark Everson
MUSIC: Nick Urata
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Gary Williamson
RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Studio Canal
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 11, 2014