Those of a certain generation will have quite the fondness for Paddington Bear, and high expectations for a film brought to us from the ‘Harry Potter’ franchise team. The question is, can ‘Paddington’ live up to those standards?
If the five stars above haven’t given it away, the answer is: yes! ‘Paddington’ is clever, hilarious, and very, very good.
Firstly, the choice of Ben Whishaw as the voice of the bear is just right. While Colin Firth (who was originally given the role) would also have been good, Whishaw is simply a much better fit. It would have been hard to believe a creature with Firth’s voice could be lost in London, while Whishaw gives Paddington an adorable charm laced with just the right amount of vulnerability.
The rest of the cast are excellent. Hugh Bonneville (‘Downton Abbey’) is great as upright Mr Brown, who inevitably softens towards Paddington. The role allows Bonneville to flex his not-insubstantial comedic muscles. Sally Hawkins (‘Blue Jasmine’) couldn’t have been better as Mrs Brown, while the two children (Samuel Joslin and Madeline Harris) are typical teenagers. Those two are just starting out on brilliant careers. Peter Capaldi, Jim Broadbent and Julie Walters round out a fantastic and balanced cast.
There was only one aspect of ‘Paddington’ that threatened its five-star status... Nicole Kidman. To me, Kidman is an overrated bore who has spoiled every role she’s had in the last 20 years. But here, she seems to relish to role of villain, and chews the scenery with enthusiasm. She’s still as wooden and annoying as ever, but paired with the ridiculousness of her character, it seems to work.
‘Paddington’ is clever, hilarious, and very, very good.
The animation of the bears is excellent, and obviously a lot of work has gone into making them look just right. The music is perfect: Calypso band D Lime make appearances throughout the film, singing songs about London, and add just the right amount of emotional punch to their scenes. London itself is almost a character – the facets of the city playing an integral role in the course of this story about acceptance and finding a home. There are messages here if you care to listen, and they’re very good ones. And, as do most children’s films these days, ‘Paddington’ includes plenty of grown-up jokes to keep the adults entertained.
The filmmakers chose to use an interesting little technique in telling parts of the story as a sort of miniature in the scene. You’ll know what I mean when you see it, and I’m sure, like me, you’ll think it very clever. As is the entire film - ‘Paddington’ is very clever.
If you’re looking for something to take the kids to this Christmas holidays, or if you’re just looking for a moment as a kid yourself, ‘Paddington’ will tick all your boxes. Not even Nicole Kidman could ruin this film.