Reviews For Friends #14: Paddington
Reviews for Friends - Paddington
A genuine joy
Watching this film, it is clear the cast are all having an absolute whale of a time - and who can blame them. The synergy of this real life cast with a CGI bear in the lead is unexpectedly seamless.
Ben Whishaw as the voice of this famous and treasured bear strikes the perfect balance between boyish and bear-ish. Totally charming with those warm, tally ho old English tones, Paddington is a wonderful antidote to any Christmas stress you may be feeling.
Paddington is forced to leave ‘darkest Peru’ - where he lives with his Aunt and Uncle - when their home is hit by an earthquake, destroying all their homemade marmalade supplies and, more movingly, claiming the Uncle. A number of years earlier, the bears had been visited by a jolly British explorer who taught them the ways of the English and their language. The explorer had told the family that there would always be a home in London for bears, and so Paddington embarks on a journey cross-continent, armed only with a supply of marmalade and a note around his neck reading ‘please look after this bear’ - emotionally referencing the child evacuees who found themselves on the platforms of train stations in WW2, looking for new homes.
When Paddington arrives in London he happens upon the Brown family - and an army of pigeons, genius - and together they go in search of the explorer. But, of course, peril is met in the unlikely guise of a deranged taxidermist, intent on getting her hands on our beloved bear.
Top quality screenwriting includes some hilarious - and I do mean hilarious - offbeat British humour, with many jokes for adults peppered throughout. A few minutes in, when we learn that Uncle Pastuzo was named after an ‘exotic boxer’, we know we are in for a particularly eccentric ride.
The supporting cast are a dream. Nicole Kidman is suitably stunning and chilling as Millicent, the Natural History Museum’s resident crazy-taxidermist - imagine a more nimble Cruella De Ville - dressed throughout in what can only be described as a dominatrix hunts-woman. Julie Walters, who plays the Brown’s housekeeper, continues to be good in everything she does.
At the heart of this film is a good old moral. Any children - and adults - watching should hopefully take on board the message that everybody is different, and these differences should be celebrated and welcomed. Peter Capaldi in his turn as the grouchy and downright racist neighbour of the Browns’, Mr Curry, is tantalisingly good - tantalising in that we hardly see enough of him. In real life Mr Curry may well have had an England flag hanging from his window - aside from the fact that he and the Browns appear to live on what looks like London’s most expensive residential street. Paddington’s London looks particularly chocolate box - or rather M&S biscuit box - which I can imagine will go down well with ‘foreigners’.
Overall this film is a tremendous achievement - and simply unmissable.