It’s over 50 years since author Michael Bond introduced Paddington Bear on a London train station wearing the heartstring-tugging tag around his neck: “Please look after this bear”. That message referenced the plight of refugee children during World War II. In this charming screen update it could just as easily relate to wide-eyed Kiwis on their OE or refugees from modern day war zones. The scaffolding of the film is serious, but the action is joyous.
Paddington is cuddly comfort for anyone who has ever felt like an outsider. Brought to life by the honey-toned voice of Ben Whishaw and some pretty good CGI, the bear “from darkest Peru” politely bumbles through an unfamiliar world seeking a loving home.
Parents need not fear the pre-release media storm that Paddington was slammed with an elevated rating due to sexual references. If there was smut, it’s cut. It has villainy (of course) in the form of a spiteful taxidermist, played by Nicole Kidman, and her devotee, an underused Peter Capaldi, but the scare level is resoundingly G-rated. Its Britishness gives the film a more gentle sensibility than American family film counterparts, though that’s not to say it’s dull. Paddington has well-timed hilarious action sequences and London twinkles with Wes Anderson-style production design.
The film is about parenting just as much as it is about being a kid. Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) shows his funny side as an overprotective father with a backstory. Sally Hawkins’ ditzy mother also has more complexity than you’d expect from this genre. There are morals about xenophobia and family to swallow but with this considered, sweet treatment they go down as easily as Paddington’s relished marmalade.
‘Paddington’ Movie Times