It’s always worrying when they make a live action version of a children’s classic. We’ve read the books, we’ve watched the cartoons, but will we enjoy it as much in live action? Find out if I did in this Paddington review.
Before we get started, I’d just like to point out that the IMDB summary for this film is ‘A young English boy befriends a talking bear he finds at a London train station.’ which is pretty close, but it’s actually his mother that befriends the bear.
I took some of my family to see the film as we’re all Paddington fans. So we’ve got three generations watching the film.
Let’s start with the character of Paddington. It’s not always easy to pull off a character in CGI, but they’ve done well with this one. He doesn’t look as ‘cuddly’ as the illustrated version, but in saying that he does look more like a bear than the cartoon does. There’s a small sense of excitement seeing characters how they would look in real life, and I guess you could imagine this Paddington walking down the street. Ben Whishaw also provides a very suitable voice for the bear.
Speaking of which, he often goes quite unnoticed, which I found rather strange. It always bemuses me how in these cinematic universes, nobody ever questions why a small bear in a hat is not only wandering down the street but also talking to them. Nobody bats an eyelid. Then again, I suppose they’re used to it after all these mutant turtles and transformers. That’s the only major niggle in films like this, being able to suspend disbelief. Anyway, onto the story.
The film focuses on the origins of Paddington, and how he came to live in London. There seems to be a lot of origin stories around of late (e.g. TMNT, Guardians of the Galaxy) but obviously they need to do it to reintroduce the character to or explain it to new viewers. The story opens in Peru, with a glimpse into Paddinton’s pre-London life with his Aunt and Uncle. This is a nice touch, with some excellent CGI work. The opening is fun and light-hearted, and then his Uncle dies. It’s a pretty gloomy topic to cover early on, but the film manages to mix the happy and sad quite well.
Once Paddington is in London, the story focusses on him learning about human culture whilst trying to avoid falling into the clutches of some evil lady – I forget her name because she was a pretty rubbish character, but I’ll get to that later. The plot was quite strong, although the motives of the antagonist were questionable. Apparently she was jealous of her explorer father for not capturing Paddington’s species when he had the chance, so she tries to capture Paddington. The humour in the film is mixed. You’ve got the physical humour of Paddington in our world, which was very good and made everyone laugh. Then you’ve got the forced humour from characters like Mr Curry and Mrs Brown which falls a little flat.
So, to the characters. The Brown family were all well played. Hugh Bonneville must have had great fun playing Mr Brown, with some very comical scenes. The young boy is not too bad, but Judy is quite annoying. They appear to have written her as what they think is a typical teenage girl, but I don’t think there are actually people like that. I was also excited to see Peter Capaldi (who I’m more familiar with as the 12th Doctor in Doctor Who) who was playing, in my opinion, the wrong role. His character, Mr Curry, is your stereotypical odd neighbour who becomes smitten with the villain. It’s a comedy character, but one that doesn’t really need to be there and is quite annoying. It’s a shame then that they cast Capaldi in this role. There was also an appearance from Jim Broadbent as Mr Gruber – once you get past the dodgy accent, this is an okay character – and Julie Walters with a thick Scottish accent, as Mrs Bird. Imelda Staunton and Michael Gambon were equally wonderful as Aunt Lucy and Uncle Pastuzo respectively. There was also a cameo by Matt Lucas as a stereotypical London cab driver. But the worst character for me was Nicole Kidman’s, Millicent (I looked it up). She was your typical children’s film villain, who seems to pose very little threat and isn’t as scary as she’s made out to be.
Overall, I enjoyed the film and so did my mother, nan and Grandad. Nan in particular seemed a little over excited afterwards. I recommend you see this film as it’s a valiant effort at bringing one of Britain’s most iconic characters to life.
Our rating: (4 / 5)