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PADDINGTON Smarter Than The Average Bear

Paddington
Paddington

Directed by Paul King

Starring Ben Wishaw, Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Nicole Kidman

Excuse me, I am just going to nerd out over a children’s movie. I am going to wax lyrically over the exploration of theme, and how in paring its subject mater back to the original creation it not only remains true to the spirit of the original, but expands the message covering topical themes. Now it may seem a little odd, but it is worth remembering that it has been an established trend in children’s films to work on both an adult and a child’s level to broaden the appeal. This year has seen some exceptional examples, such as the intelligent gnostic script of The Lego Movie, or the geeky Easter-egg laden joy of the soon-to-be-released Big Hero 6. Paddington is far better than I had the right to expect, far more intelligent than I ever thought it could be.

In deepest darkest Peru lives Paddington the Bear (voiced by Ben Wishaw). When his home is destroyed in a natural disaster he heads to London, as his family was told by an explorer that they would be welcome there. Upon arrival the young bear discovers England is not all he expected it to be, but he does manage to be taken in by the Brown family, who discover him at Paddington Station (hence the name). As Paddington tries to adapt to the new culture and family, he is hunted by a taxidermist (Nicole Kidman – relishing her role as an evil ice queen even more than she did in The Golden Compass) with connections to his past, and plans for his future.

The Paddington property has lain fallow for about 20 years, save for the soft toys. Director Paul King updates Michael Bond’s classic, slightly, to reflect the modern London while remaining true to the spirit of the original (a number of the first books tales make the basis of this film). Bright colours, retro set dressing, cracking performances and artistic cinematic flourishes make the story leap off the screen, but it is in the intelligently written, multi-layered script that Paddington really shines.

At its heart Paddington is a celebration of all things peculiarly British (especially the sense of humour). It revels in the British character, creating an age of good manners and elevenses, but it is not a blind love unable to recognise the bad associated with the good. It may celebrate Empire, but it is an Empire Paddington admits is capable of neo-colonialism and xenophobia. Instead it is an ideal to be strived for and cherished by those who have recently come to her shores. For above all else Paddington is an immigrant’s tale, showing that a welcoming acceptance can enrich a culture.

A film full of childlike joy, no matter what your age group is. Enjoy, with or without lashings of marmalade and a cup of tea.

DAVID O’CONNELL