I don’t even know what type of review this is. I could call it a retro review but it hasn’t even been half a year since the film came out. Since it’s just come out on DVD, it’ll have to be called a DVD Review. Anyway, this film holds a special place in my heart, since it was the last film I saw at the cinema before starting this site. But enough with the attempt at pulling some heartstrings, here’s Paddington.
Paddington is a reboot/re-imagining of the famous literary children’s character from the late 1950s, who after stowing away on a container ship from Darkest Peru, ends up at London’s Paddington Station (hence the name) where the Brown family takes him in.
First off, the cast list for the film is spectacular. Movie 43 may have the biggest names cast list in the history of cinema (which it really doesn’t deserve) but Paddington runs a close second. Ben Whishaw, Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Julie Walters, Peter Capaldi and Nicole Kidman are a stellar cast, along with the smaller roles inhabited by actors such as Matt Lucas, Matt King (Super Hans from Peep Show), Kayvan Novak (Fonejacker), Jim Broadbent, Michael Gambon and Imelda Staunton, making this film a broad spectrum of great actors. Credit is due mostly though to Ben Whishaw, as the voice of Paddington, who delivers a great balance of old-world naiveté and charm to his portrayal of the famous bear.
Sticking with the idea of Paddington, the CGI and animatronics are stunning, with great attention to detail and technical wizardry, giving us, the audience, a ridiculously lifelike bear, which never falls into the uncanny valley.
The script, written by Hamish McColl is both hilarious and poignant, with several jokes coming under the “Pixar Effect”, being aimed at adults who will have taken their kids to see the film. This has landed the film a PG rating, but don’t be put off, this is still a film for the entire family. Paddington, like McColl’s other notable films, (Mr. Bean’s Holiday and Johnny English 2) has a very British sense of humour throughout, with many of the funnier jokes coming from cutaway gags (such as a more politically correct name for an orphanage still being linked with a gothic setting) and it’s own self-awareness (such as an ever present calypso band playing on the street to camera). It’s these postmodernist flourishes that give the film its charm, and it never becomes a parody of itself.
In relation to the calypso band mentioned, the score, composed by Nick Urata is the best of two styles, the big bold brassy numbers for the comedic set pieces and then a quieter focus on wind instruments and violins for the more downbeat moments, while never feeling out of place. And with the inclusion of some classic songs, such as James Brown’s I Feel Good, Steppenwolf’s’ Born To Be Wild and a hilarious addition of Lionel Richie masterpiece Hello for a brief few seconds, the film’s score becomes one of it’s highlights.
There are only a few small problems with the film. Like Disney’s recent Big Hero 6, the film is only around 90 minutes, probably for it’s younger target audience, but it feels we miss out on some of Paddington just seeing the London that he’s ended up in, rather than the London he believed he was going to. And just a small problem, Madeline Harris, who plays the Brown’s daughter Judy, starts off the film being the typical moody teenager that every parent and older teenager will recognise. In the beginning it just feels forced, but the character eventually mellows out, so it’s not too much of a problem.
In summary, Paddington is a film that anyone can see. With jokes aimed at all audience members without being broad and tame, and a story that doesn’t shy away from heavy subjects like mortality and disgrace, it’s a feel-good ride.
Score: 10/10 Quite possibly surpasses The Lego Movie as the best animated film of 2014.