Paddington (PG)

The new Paddington movie is as warm and welcoming as a roaring fire on a cold winter’s day.

After a fatal earthquake destroys his home in the rainforests of Peru, a young bear (voiced by Ben Whishaw) makes his way to London in search of a new home.

The bear, dubbed “Paddington” finds shelter with the family of Henry (Hugh Bonneville) and Mary Brown (Sally Hawkins). Although Paddington’s amazement at urban living soon endears him to the Browns, someone else has her eye on him: taxidermist Millicent Clyde (Nicole Kidman). She has designs on Paddington’s rare Peruvian hide.

Paddington embraces London’s melting-pot vibrancy, which allows even a bear from a few hundred miles outside Lima to feel at home. “In London nobody’s alike, which means everyone fits in,” he muses. What a wonderful lesson for children to learn from a movie.

This re-imagining of Michael Bond’s much-loved series of children’s books has been brought beautifully to life by Whishaw and the digital artists at Framestore. The movie is every bit as sweet and charming as Bond’s original creation. It’s an utter delight to watch.

Paddington is enormously funny in a quintessentially British way; the overall effect is something that feels as though it’s been created by the Children’s Film Foundation and styled by Wes Anderson. Paddington Bear is one of the most loveable characters in children’s fiction and I hope he remains so.

The first Paddington book was published in 1958, when the image of young evacuees standing on railway platforms with a suitcase each and labels around their necks was still fresh in the British collective consciousness, and director Paul King and his co-writer Hamish McColl have made sure that resonance isn’t lost. These flashes of seriousness amongst the laugh out loud slapstick scenes are what make this movie so endearing.

Paddington’s move to the big screen has generated a great deal of controversy. Firstly there was the voicing debacle when Colin Firth signed up to be the voice of Paddington, only to consciously uncouple from the role after realising that he “wasn’t Paddington Bear.” But Skyfall’s Ben Whishaw stepped in and saved the day and gave Paddington the voice he needed.

Then last month the British Board of Film Classification announced that the new Paddington movie had been rated PG for “dangerous behaviour, mild threat, mild sex references and mild bad language.”

People were left scratching their heads wondering what had happened to this fuzzy emblem of childhood. Had movie-stardom gone to his marmalade-tousled head? Had the grizzly turned a bit… well, grisly?

I’m happy to tell you that it was all utter nonsense. There isn’t any inappropriate sexual innuendo in the movie. Pet names and light flirting do not a sex reference make

Bonneville and Hawkins light up the whole production as Mr and Mrs Brown, two imperfect parents with good intentions.

I didn’t expect to laugh myself silly and feel a renewed love for the fuzzy bear with a penchant for marmalade. We should thank Firth for his departure from this movie because Whishaw’s hot-tea-and-honey voice is so spot-on that it’s impossible to imagine anyone else ever being the voice of Paddington.

I’m glad to report that the instruction ‘Please look after this bear’ has been heeded. Paddington is a heart-warming movie with a wonderful message, don’t worry about fitting in, just be you. Family movies don’t get much better than that.

By Ruth Walker
★★★★☆

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