Bringing you honest reviews of recent releases
If you go down to the woods today..
..you won’t find anything. Because the bear has come to London.
Studio Canal bring Michael Bond’s famous furry storybook character to life in this colourful, festive film.
Ben Whishaw – Paddington
Hugh Bonneville – Mr. Brown
Sally Hawkins – Mrs. Brown
Nicole Kidman – Millicent
Peter Capaldi – Mr. Curry
Julie Walters – Mrs. Bird
Paddington is just adorable. From the second the furry thing rolled onto the screen I was hooked. The graphics used to bring him to life were fantastic. I’ve seen some movies where the animated character doesn’t quite blend in with the humans – Paddington on the other hand, melted nicely into the scene every time. As the character moves around the screen, his soft fur bobs gently as though under a breeze, each hair visible in fine detail (think Sully from Monsters Inc.) – it’s very well animated. And the colours are superb; orangey-browns blend into grey, white, silver. Paddington was released at the right time of year, because this bear is practically a walking Christmas decoration.
Ben Wishaw makes a splendid job of voicing the furry rogue too. Paddington has a very soft, mature voice which never seems to get angry or too loud. Have you ever met an older person who (every time you see him / her) remains calm and collective? Polite and warm-hearted? You never see this person any other way? This was like Paddington. At the beginning of the movie when he arrives at London Paddington train station, he grabbed hold of my heart instantly. The bear sits on his little suitcase, busy people rushing past him. All you hear for a few seconds through the manic commuters are soft murmurs of, “excuse me? Excuse me, I’m trying to find a home. Excuse me?”, before the crowds clear and he is left alone again, sitting on his suitcase looking sad. Paddington seriously tugged at my heart strings. Something about the bear radiated a wonderfully warm and slightly sad emotion. This was one of those moments in a movie that genuinely made me smile and exclaim, “awwww” with a fuzzy feeling somewhere deep down. It was very touching. And that was before Sally Hawkins walked by..
The Brown family disembark a train and hurry along a platform of London Paddington station. Mr Brown spots a strange looking creature, and warns his wife and two children to keep moving as there appears to be a strange bear who is “trying to sell something” stood by the entrance to the Lost and Found office. The family hurry on by.
..until Mrs Brown stops, and walks slowly back towards the bear.
This is Sally’s shining moment (if the glint in her eyes is anything to go by) as she cocks her head to read the bear’s tag that is hung round his neck. This is actually quite a heart-warming, important scene as it sees the turnaround of the bear’s situation; sadness turns to joy as this woman becomes the bridge between an empty, lonely void and a secure home. The emotion displayed by Hawkins is brilliant. She played it so subtle, that less really was more as I found myself drawn in by her soft voice and friendly facial expressions. The actress performed with such minimal effort – Mrs Brown wasn’t exactly bursting into song and dance – but even so, she nailed it. Not much dynamic needed here as Sally’s character radiated a lovely, compassionate vibe which had me smiling as I sat watching the bond form between mother and bear.
Paddington (once named, and living with the Brown family) begins writing letters to his aunt in Peru. He describes how he spends his days, what he gets up to and who he meets along the way. As the bear sits writing, Ben Wishaw’s reads the diary excerpts in form of voiceover. One bit stood out for me though – towards the end of the movie, Paddington writes a final letter to Aunt Lucy in which he tells her of his experience having learned how everyone in London are so different. How it doesn’t matter who or what you are, you can still fit in. A very observant undercurrent here – this movie does a great job of portraying the ‘being different’ element to viewers. It’s definitely one to sit the kids down in front of if you’re wanting to teach them that being different to many other people isn’t a bad thing.
On a different note, when Paddington first arrives in the city, his first letter to Aunt Lucy consists of him describing how London isn’t as welcoming as he was told it was. How everyone are so busy and stressy. And the general public are not as well-mannered as he assumed they would be. My god, the bear got it spot-on; I’ve lived in London for long enough, I could’ve warned him of that. His views on London life are brilliantly accurate though, this movie carries another message here – mainly for asylum seekers though.
I do like a movie which contains elements of familiarity. The instant recognition makes me ease into the action nicely. Firstly, the beginning of this movie is based at London Paddington train station. I was only there a few weeks ago myself, catching a train to Swindon. This was familiar. Then I noticed the First Great Western train the Brown family get off; very experienced with this company as I have journeyed on them also. Throughout the movie viewers gets an eyeful of London itself; Tower Bridge and City Hall, the River Thames, Portobello Road and Westminster. Also on display are pretty suburban streets (Chelsea area, I think) boasting colourful houses. In fact, Paddington reminded me a little of Mary Poppins. That classic British townhouse surrounded by iron railings, chimney tops, etc. It’s all very traditional London Town scenery.
During the movie we see the Brown family rushing down a city street, towards Westbourne Park tube station. And then some nice shots inside the station of general areas such as the infamous Oyster ticket barriers and escalators, famed for having their walls lined with posters of current West End shows. Another dash of London lifestyle. I smiled a smile of familiarity when I spotted Westbourne Oak tube – even though I’ve not really been up that way before, but hey. We’re all neighbours in this crazy yet colourful city.
Before going to see Paddington I had heard from various sources that the movie was of a PG rating (Parental Guidance). A lady I know at the gym laughed in surprise at this, saying it was ridiculous as the rating had been given due to a scene where Mr Brown (Bonneville) dresses in ‘drag’. I was surprised about this also, wondering why the the BBFC needed to ‘PG’ it. I mean, kids these days from 5 upwards are treated to pantomimes at Christmas – whereby grown men are plastered in make-up and wearing tights. Surely Paddington didn’t need to be a PG!
..but then came a scene which had my mouth hanging open, and I suddenly realised why.
In a nutshell, Mr Brown and Paddington infiltrate an organisation’s headquarters to undertake a mission. Mr Brown goes undercover as the building’s cleaning lady (complete with bonnet, dress and eyeshadow). That’s it. “no harm here”, I thought during the seemingly subtle scene.
And then came the obviously homosexual security guard. Who, in plain sight, actually cruises Mr Brown. The scene between them starts with the guard checking the fake cleaner’s security pass and commenting on how Mr Brown has ‘changed’ since the photo was taken. This bit went on for a strangely long time, with the guard displaying sexual facial expressions. But then the bombshell..
The guard smirks at Mr Brown and announces, “..I’m going to the toilet now”.
Whoa. A gay security guard hinting to another man that he’s going into ‘the toilet’. Everything about this scene was homosexually slimey and carried a seedy air of ‘cruising’. Even I felt a little uneasy and I wasn’t one of the adults with children in the auditorium. Paddington – rated PG? I’m not fucking surprised!!
“..it’s those two” I thought to myself halfway through the movie. Alice Lowe and Steve Oram – probably best known for their 2012 black comedy Sightseers. I’ve seen the pair pop up in various TV shows / movies since – either together or seperately, and like many comedy duo’s out there, the director used them both for Paddington – however brief their appearances were. Some double-act’s end up together in everything don’t they. Alice is virtually unrecognisable in this movie, see if you can spot her. (if you’re familiar with her of course).
Whether Paddington is caught licking cream from his butt (he sits in a cake at one stage) or coming out with witty one-liner’s, the humour flows with full force throughout the movie – much of it is typical British humour which involves slapstick. The scene where the bear returns home with the Brown family made me – and a few other audience members – laugh out loud. Mrs Brown tells him to go freshen up in the bathroom, and on asking if he needs a hand, Paddington responds to her in the most polite, well-mannered way that he is fine and can manage. And then begins wriggling up the bannister. It had to have been the most subtle line in the movie, yet ended up being hilarious.
The movie isn’t side-splittingly hilarious, but is certainly charming. The cast seem to have it under control as each has their scene with Paddington and deliver enough humour to keep the pace up.
This movie contains that classic irritating element of having a random cluster of musicians who pop up at sporadic intervals. This batch of jungle-style boys play a few scenes out in that cliché style: Instrument players moving smoothly whilst staring straight ahead, lead singer singing as he cheekily looks sideways at the protagonist (Paddington).
It was annoying. And irrelevant. And kind of put the frown in frolics as I sat wondering what the point of them was. And whilst I’m on that subject..
As with all other movies I see, I bring you the good’s and the shit’s. The main shit here was the action. Chase scenes that were over within seconds, a cunning plot hatched by the lead nasty which seemed to evaporate instantly.. the action in this movie happened in the blink of an eye. Unfortunately this affected the main scene where the Brown family hustle into a museum to rescue Paddington from Millicent (Kidman). The gang literally sneak in – and get him. At one point Mr Brown pulls a stunt whereby he jumps out of a high window and edges along a slippery ledge – but this bit happened so quickly that no proper tension was included. He was out and in within seconds!
Nicole Kidman’s character is deliciously wicked. She has the perfect face (and hairstyle) for the baddie. And seeing her dressed in tweed stood in a red London phone box was like a fish out of water. But something was missing – she seemed to downplay her character somewhat, leading to a performance more subtle than effective.
Paddington is a lovely little movie. Warm and cozy, it’s perfect family viewing. Its plot is simple, its messages are clear. And the lead character brings an adorable air of naivety to the screen. He is adorable yet radiates a slight sadness too. It’s a refreshing gem which embraces the theme of being different and wraps it in festive joy. Definitely one to have as part of your Christmas collection.