DIR/WRI: Paul King • PRO: David Heyman • DOP: Erik Wilson • ED: Mark Everson • MUS: Nick Urata Howard •DES: Gary Williamson • CAST: Nicole Kidman, Peter Capaldi, Hugh Bonneville, Ben Whishaw
Paddington opens with such an odd send-up of imperialist Britain one practically expects Eric Idle to potter onscreen with a marmalade sandwich. It is a story which will be well-known by many but I was positively green to. A British explorer “in darkest Peru” happens upon a family of talking bears, introduces them to marmalade (a substance they become instantly addicted to), drops off a hat and buggers off back to London. Years later, when an earthquake ruins their home and kills the male, the grandson of the bears leaves for London in a lifeboat on a cargo boat with nothing but a hat and a can-do attitude and what can only be described as a shit-ton of marmalade, seeking asylum in the house of any Londoners who might take him in. He happens upon the Browns, who name him for the train station they meet him in and twenty minutes in the stage is set for a whimsical wee tale equally interpretable as a chirpy anti-UKIP yarn as it is a harrowing parable on the consequences of man’s interference with nature, although it’s mostly the former.
Start to finish I enjoyed this film. It is a closer rendition of a Wes Anderson children’s film than The Fantastic Mr. Fox could ever hope to be. It is as charmingly presented as a story-book illustration and as respectful of its audience as a Roald Dahl book. From the moment the screen flickered to life I was waiting for the meat of the human-bear dynamic jokes to run out but I simply couldn’t stop giggling. Hugh Bonneville in particular has terrific timing and the sheer nastiness of Nicole Kidman’s taxidermy enthusiast is funnier than anything Adam Sandler has produced in years. I’m fully aware this is becoming nothing short of a list of things I loved about Paddington so rather than order them I’m going to embrace the format.
The concept design is startlingly beautiful, right down to Peter Capaldi’s grumpy neighbour’s dressing gown. Sigur Ros’ score is soft as milk to the ears. Paddington himself is well-realised and not at all as creepy as I’d thought he appeared in the trailer. Every fifteen minutes or so the action is sublimely punctuated by a ska band singing sweetly about life in London.
There’s not a great deal I can say more relevant than simply “Go to see this”. You won’t believe me until you go but this film, which I’d previously written off as yet another cheap cash-in on a cherished property, is the best family film to go on release in some time.
G (See IFCO for details)
Paddington is released 21st November 2014