Film Review: Paddington

There is always that uneasy moment when you hear that Hollywood has decided to bring a much loved and cherished childhood character, to the big screen. That split second of panic as visions of happy memories stored locked away are put at risk. As hype overtakes excitement, and rumours turn to anxiety, the pressure of expectation placed upon that initial trailer, the first glimpse, that moment of all or nothing judgement, as the day of realisation looms into view.

And that was exactly what happened when it was announced that Paddington, the marmalade loving bear from Peru was to make his cinematic debut. My childhood was rocking. For you see, Paddington to me, is a 4inch high teddy bear in a Blue duffle coat, red hat and Wellington boots. He is not, and will not, ever be a CGI anatomically accurate Mr Darcy. To say I was worried was an understatement.

Tomato Ketchup - Paddington

Then, Colin Firth left to be replaced by Q (Ben Whishaw) and everything went into overdrive. I didn’t care what people said, the bear of my youth didn’t match the images that were leaking out and certainly wasn’t befitting of the treatment he seemed to be receiving. And then I saw the trailer, I watched him squirt ketchup and surf a bathtub down some stairs. This wasn’t my Paddington. This wasn’t my Bear.

As the day of release drew closer, I heard an interview with Hugh Bonneville, in which you could hear the real love and passion he had in the film and it’s story, and then I started to see the reviews. Critics started declaring it perfect, and brilliant, and true to it’s roots. To the bear Michael Bond gave to me, to the world. Had I misjudged it? Did I dare risk destroying my memories and risk seeing it? What if the reviews were wrong?

So, it was with a larger pinch of trepidation than excitement that I went to see it. And I’m over the moon to be able to report that they have nailed Paddington. He is, put simply, perfection. He is my bear. It’s not often that you end up in the situation where a trailer misrepresents a film in the way it does; but this time they have got the tone totally wrong. This isn’t the slapstick, silly, immature film that it briefly appeared to be but rather a warm, loving heartfelt tale of one little bear’s adventure. It is so true to the underlying themes and reasonings that Michael Bond made so important. The background of evacuation, compassionate and trust all come screaming through. And while Ringo Star may always be Thomas the Tank Engine, Ben Whishaw will now forever be Paddington. You really cannot imagine anyone else. He maybe a CGI bear that’s missing his Wellington boots but I didn’t car. He is the bear I so desperately wanted him to be.

Ben Whishaw - Paddington

But the best thing about this film are the little touches. It really does show just how impressive intention to detail can be when done right. In the same way that Aardman nailed the early Wallace and Gromit stories, the team behind Paddington have created a world that is full of moments of joyous magic just waiting to be seen, to be spotted. I truly believe, that the more you watch Paddington, the more secrets the film will give up. The more hidden jokes will be revealed. The cleverness of the production is a work of art. Paddington also happily walks straight past the “6 laugh test” and on past 12, 18, 24, and then I gave up counting. It’s full of seriously proper “laugh out loud” moments, and there were numerous moments where I was physically having to hold back the laughter for fear of just how loud the raucous cheer would be. Honestly, there was even one moment involving the perfect use of comic timing and accompanying soundtrack that had me gone, as they say, for a very long time. I really haven’t laughed anything like as much as I did watching Paddington for a very, very long time.

Sadly though, it’s not all good news. Because while I was sitting there for the first two-thirds of the film believing that I was about to give my first ever 10/10 rating, that this film was simply too good for a 9, it suddenly lost it’s way. But I can forgive it, after all, we all need to stop for directions from time to time. The problem though, is that the reason it loses it’s way is because it forgets it’s underlying themes and replaces them with implied danger and while the reasoning behind doing this was understandable, for me it didn’t fit the style of the rest of the film. And in fact, the small girl a few rows behind me was audibly panicked by Paddington’s predicament while I just felt that let down that the film had gone a bit “Hollywood” in the need to include some unnecessary and mindless “action”.

Peter Capaldi - Paddington

Over all, I adored Paddington, the world brought to life by Hugh Boneville, Sally Hawkins, Julie Walters, Samuel Joslin and Madeleine Harris will honestly tug at the heart strings and connect deeply and lovingly with your inner child. Mention must also be made of Peter Capaldi, with the juxtaposition of being Doctor Who and now, Paddington’s neighbour meant there was a risk of him looking out of place, of you expecting to see the Tardis parked at the end of the street but it never happens. He brings such a contrasted personality to his part you never once think “Doctor” and instead are reminded just how good a comic actor he really is.

I cannot tell you enough how much I have loved this film, how much my fears have been allayed and how much you need to go and spend some time with a little lost bear from Peru. I still have Paddington stuck in my head and in fact, writing this I can actually hear him narrating parts as I read them back, such is his absolute charm and appealing personality.

I will, however, leave you with the biggest compliment I can pay this film and this bear and simply finish by saying, Paddington has had such an effect on me, I’ve actually looked up where you can buy a blue coat with sturdy wooden pegs and two marvellous sandwich holders!

9 out of 10 stars (9 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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