British writer-director Paul King shows no fledgling nerves in this accomplished big-screen adaptation of Paddington Bear which boasts a terrific, lovable CGI hero and witty script.
Released in time for the Christmas season of 2014, Paddington is writer-director Paul King’s contemporary adaptation of the much-loved Michael Bond tales. A slice of classic British children’s literature, anthropomorphised young bear Paddington from “deepest, darkest Peru” comes to London seeking a family and unwittingly finds excitement and adventure. Brilliantly capturing the charm of its titular star, King’s film is a sprightly, good-natured and witty family comedy that offers something for everyone, whether you’re eight or eighty.
Through old newsreel footage we’re introduced to geographer Montgomery Clyde whose expedition to Peru takes a turn for the unexpected when he happens upon an unknown species of bear. He quickly learns they have an ability to understand English, possessing an intelligence previously undocumented. Instead of returning home with a specimen for analysis, he befriends the family of bears and leaves them to live happily. As a parting gesture, he tells them if they are ever in London, they’ll have a home with him. Years later, the young nephew of the bears sees his existence uprooted following an earthquake so heads off to England’s capital city in the hope Montgomery will come good on his offer.
The pleasing familiarity of King’s Paddington – a sort of watered-down Mr Bean transplanted into 101 Dalmatians-meets-Beethoven – fulfils expectation rather than subverts it, which works perfectly well on this stage. The same can be said of Nicole Kidman’s caricatured villain – even possessing the bleached bonce of Cruella de Vil – who satisfyingly personifies the dastardly antagonist, a darkly over-egged fly in the ointment.
Yet, while kids will be easily amused by the film’s sense of wide-eyed discovery and neat lines between heroes and villains, there’s plenty to sit and admire for everyone else. Certainly, King is spot on with the most important aspect of the film: Paddington himself. Depicted through a mixture of top notch computer-generated imagery and animatronics, the bear looks fantastic. Voiced by Ben Wishaw, who you might have seen as Q in the latest James Bond films, the actor gives Paddington a lovable innocence whose delightful eagerness to please and unflinching manners have the comforting, softly spoken warmth of Wishaw’s theatre-trained delivery.
The technical accomplishment of the special effects is typical of Paddington, which boasts Erik Wilson’s picture-postcard cinematography, painting a rain-soaked London in classic brush strokes. There’s the recognisable landmarks – Paddington Station, Tower Bridge and the streets around Notting Hill – photographed with a nostalgic eye that celebrates the cultural heartbeat of the city’s architecture. Then there’s the interiors: golden hued and as balmy as a morning cuddle. This comes packaged with a side order of Nick Urata’s wonderful score, mixing the odd jaunty piano with big, bold orchestral fare.
Paddington’s big-hearted backbone is lushly framed by its characterful setting and sweet-natured hero. King, fresh from directing some of British TV comedy’s most successful shows such as The Mighty Boosh and Come Fly With Me, deserves a pat on the back. He knows who the star of the show is and ensures not only that Paddington gets the lion’s share of screen time but convinces when the spotlight is upon him. While there’s a predictability about proceedings and the live-action stars play second fiddle to their CGI companion, the inventive humour and intrepid comic capers of the lovable bear makes this roller coaster well worth riding.
Written by Dan Stephens
Directed by: Paul King
Written by: Paul King
Starring: Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent, Peter Capaldi, Nicole Kidman, Ben Whishaw
Genre: Family Adventure
Country: UK / IMDB
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Paddington was viewed courtesy of Amazon Prime.