A young Peruvian bear with a passion for all things British travels to London in search of a home. Finding himself lost and alone at Paddington Station, he begins to realize that city life is not all he had imagined - until he meets the kindly Brown family, who read the label around his neck ('Please look after this bear. Thank you.') and offer him a temporary haven. It looks as though his luck has changed until this rarest of bears catches the eye of a museum taxidermist.
To be honest I wasn’t looking forward to being dragged along to Paddington. An early creepy still of the movie inspired a whole meme and with Colin Firth pulling out as the voice of Paddington I had little hope this would be any better than Yogi Bear. But as soon as the film started – with a quirky old-fashioned newsreel – I was hooked by Paddington’s charm and inventiveness.
The producers (including one from Harry Potter) showed great faith handing such hallowed material to one-time-movie director Paul King. Luckily the creative King directed all 3 seasons of nutty comedy The Mighty Boosh and was an inspired pick for Paddington. I was just blown away by his arsenal of Amelie-style visual tricks: a dollhouse that reveals what’s happening in the Brown household, a toy train with real people inside and so many more. And let’s not forget this is a CGI bear interacting with actual people - because the animation is so slick I sure did.
Not only a visual genius, King nailed the script too. Apart from the marmalade it’s not too syrupy, just a heart-warming tale of a family fighting to stay together - with a dash of archaic slapstick and dollops of hilarious (and clean) British humour. And plenty of bear-able puns.
The cast is bang-on. Bonneville and Hawkins are just charming as Mr and Mrs Brown and make you believe in talking bears. Their kids ring true and Julie Walters is a hoot as Mrs Bird. Ben Whishaw turned out to be a great replacement as the voice of Paddington (Firth was the first to admit he was too old), capturing his fish-out-of-water innocence perfectly.
And just check out the calibre of the supporting cast – kid’s will squeal, (and be slightly confused) when Doctor Who aka Peter Capaldi appears as the nosey next door neighbour, parents will chuckle when Matt ‘Little Britain’ Lucas turns up as a honourable taxi driver, and everyone will be amazed at how good Nicole Kidman is. She obviously loves playing the villain and looks fantastic doing it.
I was expecting a sentimental childhood favourite to be modernised and dragged through the mud like Postman Pat. But Paul King has put together the perfect 21st century Paddington film –inventive, archaic, and most of all still completely charming. It’s just a great big bear hug of a film and the best pick for the family this Christmas.
Releases: 8th April 2015
Duration: 95 minutes
Starring: Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Julie Walters
Director: Paul King (Bunny and The Bull)
Colin Firth was originally cast as the voice of Paddington. But 6 months before the movie was released, Firth and the director released a statement saying that in a mutual decision, Firth would drop out as they could no longer see him in the role.
Nicole Kidman learned to throw and twirl knives for her role as Milicent. She has noted that during shooting, the producers told her to tone down her knife-throwing tricks, as it was considered too intense for a children's film. Ultimately, the scenes featuring her skills were cut out of the film.
Despite being a keen animal lover, Nicole Kidman took a taxidermy class to prepare herself for the part.
Nicole Kidman's agent originally considered rejecting the part of Millicent, before passing it on to Kidman herself. The agent casually mentioned the offer, thinking Kidman would turn it down immediately. However, to her surprise, she was met by an enthusiastic reaction from Kidman, who was eager to star in the film, as she is a childhood fan of Michael Bond's books.
The character of Paddington Bear is based on a lone teddy bear, noticed by author Michael Bond on a shelf in a London store near Paddington Station on Christmas Eve 1956. Bond bought it as a present for his wife, and was eventually inspired to write a story. The outline of the lonely bear at Paddington Station was inspired by old newsreels showing train-loads of child evacuees leaving London during the war, with labels around their necks and their possessions in small suitcases.
Originally, author Michael Bond was nervous about the project of turning his character into a live action feature. However, he was convinced after seeing half a minute of test footage.
Paddington Bear originates from "the deepest, darkest Peru". That means he is an spectacled bear, which is the only bear species from Peru, and the only surviving species of bear native to South America.