“Please look after this bear. Thank you.”
A note we are all familiar with from our childhood days. A note that has lately made a comeback when Paddington was released in 2014. There is only one way to describe this film: charm. It oozes it.
Voiced by Ben Wishaw, Paddington comes to England from Peru looking for a home. But things are not what he expects and the people not as nice as he hoped. Seeking refuge with the Brown family, Paddington is a whirlwind of destruction as he tries to adjust to his new life, working his way into the hearts of those around him. Apart from the evil Millicent Clyde (Nicole Kidman), that is. Then it is one chaotic event after the other as the family comes to terms with how much this bear means to them and what they will be prepared to do to get him back when Paddington goes missing. It’s up to the Browns to overcome their differences in order to save Paddington and find him the home he wants so desperately.
It is rare a film can be described as being a true family film and actually live up to those expectations. Paddington managed it. The excitement and adventure makes it thrilling for children, whereas the humour has adults literally laughing out loud (taken from personal experience). For instance, the reading of signs in a literal sense results in Paddington carrying a dog down the escalators while standing on his right leg. What could possibly go wrong with that, it’s what the sign said to do?
A lot of the humour comes from being able to guess what is about to happen next in terms of his accidents and then not being disappointed when it happens. From the destruction of a bathroom to fighting against the ticket barrier, the innocent nature of the fun leaves everyone with a smile on their faces, even if they have been resisting it.
The fame of this little bear brought big names to the screen. Although Colin Firth bowed out of voicing Paddington, Wishaw was an excellent choice, creating a very well-to-do, politely spoken bear – who sounded decidedly English despite coming from Peru. Throughout the whole film, recognisable actors spring up in sometimes the most unexpected places. There is even a cameo viewing of Michael Bond, the original author. Admittedly you only see the back of his head, but he is there. From Julie Walters to Imelda Staunton to Michael Gambon, the cast is a known one.
Curled up on Good Friday watching it with the entire family, it had us all laughing and even gasping at places. There was such innocence and fun within the film it leaves you feeling giddy. At the same time, there is nothing patronising about it. This was a film aimed at the whole family rather than aimed at children with the hope adults might enjoy it.
Hats off to Paul King for writing and directing. He got this spot on.