It’s January – which means time for studios to dump all the crap they couldn’t release during the more competitive times of the year. But someone forgot to tell TWC-Dimension/eOne – they released what is almost certain to be a family classic this week: Paddington.
Based on the children’s books by Michael Bone, Paddington is a complete delight from start to finish.
Paddington opens with documentary footage from Darkest Peru, where explorer Montgomery Clyde (Tim Downie) stumbles onto a pack of intelligent bears with whom he makes friends before returning home – promising them that if they should ever be in London, they will receive a warm welcome.
When an earthquake destroys their home and kills his Uncle Pastuzo (voiced by Michael Gambon), Paddington (voiced perfectly by Ben Whishaw, Q in the latest Bond films) is sent off to London by his Aunt Lucy (Imelda Staunton) – where he doesn’t receive much of a welcome and has resigned himself to sleeping in a train station when he is discovered by the Brown family.
Written and directed by Paul King from a story by King and Hamish McColl, Paddington gets everything right – from the homeless bears unfailing politeness to the stuffy Mr. Brown (Hugh Bonneville) whom we know will come around in time.
An over-the-top villain, Millicent (Nicole Kidman) may resemble Cruella DeVil in manner (Kidman has said that Cruella was her model for the part) – and be found nowhere in the books – but she’s exactly the right component part to add a bit of menace (but not too much) and give the film an extra boost of energy.
Sally Hawkins is lovely as Mary Brown – who reveals some interesting backstory to her kids – and Madeline Harris and Samuel Joslin are equally well cast as the Brown children, Judy and Jonathan (each with their unique problems and dreams).
Paddington’s problems with adjusting to civilization and frequently hilarious and never less than chuckleworthy – and the disasters he leaves in his wake (at least, initially) are worthy of Wallace and Grommet.
In her efforts to capture and stuff the poor bear from Peru, Kidman gets to poke fun at her ex’s Mission Impossible movies while reminding of Ginger Rogers (who did everything Fred Astaire did – backwards and in heels).
Peter Capaldi, the current Doctor on Doctor Who) is fine as the Browns’ nosy neighbor, Mr. Curry, and Jim Broadbent shines as an eccentric antiques shop owner (both the antiques and the owner are eccentric) called Mr. Gruber. Julie Walters steals every scene she’s in as Mrs. Bird (the Browns’ housekeeper? Eccentric aunt? We’re never quite told…).
Paddington may be based on children’s books, but it is a delight for all ages.
Final Grade: A+