A bear, some marmalade, a family that doesn't get along and all things Britain; Paddington's is very possibly the most unusual sounding family film we've had this year... but it's a damn good one!
First things first: an apology. I don't issue these very often but I feel I need to. I know what you're all thinking, why have I not reviewed this yet? The film has been out for almost a month - for us UK folk anyway. I only JUST saw it the other day so cut me slack. Just because I review films doesn't mean I get to see ALL o them early. Why am I still deciding to go ahead and review it, despite my tardiness? Because I think this is definitely worth reviewing and, besides, it's not hitting the US for another month so yeah... let's get into it.
Now, I've said this before and I'll say it again, 2014 has been a pretty poor year for family films. A decent amount have been released over the past 12 months but only a very tiny proportion of them have actually been good - not even great, just good. Normally we always have great family films. However, with the absence of Pixar, this year, it just seems like the animation and family genre has gone askew. Paddington is the exception. Paddington is that sparkly, Pixar-esque family film we all need - especially at Christmas time.
I loved this film. I loved it A LOT. I had such a fun time watching this and it made me feel like a little kid again. Honestly, it did and it's the only film this year that has managed to bring the inner child out of me and considering I'm normally quite immature and a sucker for animations and kids films, this really says something about the quality of the family friendlies we've received this year.
Beginning with a monochrome video journal of an explorer's encounter with a rare form of bear, we see how this species is introduced to the English language, the city of London (where they're invited to come along whenever they want) and marmalade. Yes, marmalade. We then skip ahead a few years to the world of gloriously bright and beautiful technicolor where we're greeted by our titular bear, a lively little guy brought magnificently to life through some stunning CGI effects and Ben Whishaw's excellent, quirky vocals that fit and liven the role PERFECTLY.
All is peaceful for our bear but, after a devastating earthquake - putting the dark in Darkest Peru - our eponymous protagonist is snuck onto a ship and sent off to London, expecting a friendly reception, and the game is quickly afoot from there. Of course, things aren't as they seem as when he pitches up at Paddington station - I bet you can't guess how his name comes about - he is rudely ignored, barged, shoved and just treated ignorantly by local folk. I guess they didn't notice that there was a talking bear beckoning them.
After a while though, a passing by family, the Browns, come across our lost friend and, before you know it, he has caught their attention and has won them over - all except Hugh Bonneville's Mr. Brown. After receiving his English name (RAAAAAAAAAAWR wasn't quite cutting it) from Sally Hawkins' Mrs. Brown, Padington is taken in by this family for the night and, after a hilarious little bathroom mishap and intriguing stories about the explorer whom we met at the start, is soon turning their lives upside down with his innocent curiosity. You cannot help but adore this little guy and his enigmatic charm.
However, it's not all fun and games because whilst Paddington is out there living life and causing havoc whilst trying to track down his old pal Mr. Explorer, someone has caught onto his scent and, soon, Nicole Kidman's evil, scary-looking, suited and booted Millicent is hot on his heels to settle a score and get her vengeance for a little incident that, well... I won't spoil it for you.
Everything about this film is wonderful and loveable, from the witty humour to Paddington growing on the family and bringing them together to all the wacky fun to, obviously, the plush ball of fur Paddington himself - with his contagious Marmalade addiction. It's the little things, though, that director Paul King does that makes this film that little bit more special; like his attention to the little, minute details here and there - for example, the lost and found sign that appears briefly at the train station - or how he respects and pays homage to to the classic character immortalised in the books and stories we all grew up reading and hearing.
It's clear that genuine love and affection has been poured into the making of this. Paddington's expressions, his voice, his mannerisms are all spot-on and the whole cast looks like they're having a blast working on this. Let's not forget to mention, they all deliver superb performances. Paddington has easily landed himself a place in the history books as a new, iconic character - alongside other classic icons such as Olaf or Woody.
This is a charming, whimsical family-fun that will make you laugh, cry and just have a great time whilst enjoying what is an instant classic and one of the year's highlights and most enjoyable, heartwarming movies. It fits in perfectly alongside the family greats like Toy Story, Finding Nemo, The Lion King etc. and fills in the gap in family films that was left by Pixar's absence this year - it's about the same quality, if not better, than a film from the hit studio. This definitely deserves to be the beginning of a new franchise and you can already count me on-board for the sequel.
Paul King's Paddington is an irresistibly glowing film that's warm, witty and has as much heart as it does bear. Its beautiful story and pitch-perfect humour create a sense of nostalgia whilst boasting a feel-good, magical movie experience.
About the Author
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.