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Paddington

Year: 2015
Studio: StudioCanal
Director: Paul King
Writer: Paul King/Hamish McColl/Paul Bond
Cast: Ben Wishaw, Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Nicole Kidman, Peter Capaldi, Imelda Staunton, Michael Gambon, Matt Lucas, Julie Walters

I hated the idea of this movie when I first heard it was happening because of the soulless evisceration big budget family movies usually make of classic old-style kids' literature (see The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Alice in Wonderland, et al).

Then when I saw the original trailer (the bathroom scene) I was even more horrified. The CGI bear not only looked wrong, it ended up surfing a bathtub down the stairs on a flood of water. Like Alice before him, Paddington was a quiet, soft-spoken story and if kids today need spills and thrills to respond to it then the movie was truly going to have no soul.

But after universal critical praise and box office triumph I thought I should give it a chance. Like Big Hero 6, I can see the appeal to audiences that love good examples of this sort of thing. Unfortunately, I don't, so while I can see the quality, it's still a kids' film with a tiresome home-is-where-the-heart is theme.

The movie essentially sets up and plays out the pivotal image from the series, of the bear from deepest, darkest Peru left on London's Paddington station with a tag reading 'please look after this bear' around his neck.

The gag is that Paddington's been bought to London having been told that everyone there is so polite and welcoming and he'll have no trouble finding a home, and of course he arrives in the modern day where everyone's hurrying to and fro with their faces buried in mobile phones, none of them blinking an eye at a talking bear (because that's the world the movie lives in).

When he's still sitting there late that night, the wife and mother of the Brown family (Sally Hawkins) takes pity on him and the rest of her brood reluctantly agree to take him home temporarily in order to help him find somewhere to live.

The Browns promise to find the explorer who visited his home and befriended his Auntie and Uncle in the opening coda, assuming Paddington will find a home there, but instead (in case you haven't seen a movie in the last century), he might just find a home and a family with them instead.

Throw in Nicole Kidman as one of her patented ice queen villainesses as the antagonist who wants to capture and stuff Paddington for her museum collection and you have the complete family movie package.

The bear wasn't as irritating as I'd feared, and like I've heard some of the critics say, Ben Wishaw as Paddington's voice is just the right blend of old soul with wide eyed innocence.

There are some funny lines and the rest is slick, professional and all you could possibly expect from a film of this genre in this day and age. And at the very least, like Kingsman, it's actually set in London with English trappings, idioms and customs. It's not exactly the gritty London of early Guy Ritchie, but at least it's not quite the (American) picture postcard idea of London that would normally be wrangled to sell a film to international audiences.

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