Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5.
United Kingdom/France, 2014. StudioCanal, Anton Capital Entertainment, TF1 Films Production, Canal+, Cine+, TF1, Amazon Prime Instant Video, Heyday Films, The Weinstein Company. Screen story by Hamish McColl, Paul King, Screenplay by Paul King, based on the character Paddington Bear by Michael Bond. Cinematography by Erik Wilson. Produced by David Heyman. Music by Nick Urata. Production Design by Gary Williamson. Costume Design by Lindy Hemming. Film Editing by Mark Everson.
Michael Bond’s delightful character creation, a veritable institution in England that was inspired by the sight of refugee children arriving in London in World War II, is brought to the screen with dapper and delightful results. Decades after a British explorer meets a two very hospitable bears in “Darkest Peru”, the ursine couple send their young nephew to London when their habitat is threatened, assuring the youngster that he will be more than welcome when he arrives as the explorer told them so. The bear shows up looking for a home and is greeted by a public both unphased at the sight of a talking animal in a red hat and also unwilling to take him in. That is until adorable, befuddled do-gooder Sally Hawkins spots him and insists on giving him a room despite the resistance of her conservative husband (Hugh Bonneville) and skeptical children. The idea does not seem like a good one considering that the newly named Paddington can barely use the bathroom without destroying the neighbourhood, but their affection for him grows while the threat of an ambitious taxidermist with ties to his past (played with comedic relish by a wonderful Nicole Kidman) looms large. The overall effect is not very deep, but the smooth script, likely brought to its level of delicious wit because of an uncredited rewrite by Emma Thompson, and the spritely direction make it bounce along, and the whole thing is never less than thoroughly charming. For anyone with a childhood familiarity with the character, they will find themselves waxing nostalgic, particularly as Ben Whishaw‘s voice work as the title character is perfectly achieved.