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Paddington - DVD Review

Paddington

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

THE success of Paddington both critically and commercially is enough to make the home entertainment of the film a bear necessity for anyone who has yet to see it (not to mention the many fans who have).

But while certainly fun, family-friendly and consistently entertaining, it’s not quite the classic that some have suggested.

The inclusion of Nicole Kidman’s villain, for instance, lends things an unnecessarily sinister vibe, while some of the messages behind the film are layered on as thick as the Marmalade that marks Paddington’s favourite food.

The plot is simple. After his uncle dies in a jungle tragedy in darkest Peru, Paddington (voiced by Ben Whishaw) is packed off to London to find a new home, possibly with the English explorer who discovered the bear family’s existence.

Winding up at Paddington Station, he is taken in by the Brown family, whose mother (Sally Hawkins) takes pity on him much to the frustration of her sceptical husband (Hugh Bonneville). As they try and find a more suitable home, however, an unscrupulous taxidermist (Kidman) hunts down Paddington in the hope of stuffing him and adding to her collection.

On the big plus side, Paddington quite often delights by virtue of its winning combination of feel-good values and quirky, often downright eccentric tone. It’s clear there is a great deal of reverence for Michael Bond’s creation and this provides the film with an infectious quality. Quite simply, you’ll love the bear.

Whishaw, for his part, provides some perfectly realised vocals while the effects are quite endearing and quickly evaporate any early fears about Paddington’s likeability that first-look photos delivered.

Bonneville, too, delivers a good patriarch and shares some lovely chemistry with Paddington, while Hawkins makes a suitably kooky but caring mum. Even the family kids are good – natural more than stagey.

Paul King’s direction also succeeds in lending the film a distinct identity, combining heartfelt small moments with bigger slapstick episodes and an obvious love letter to London.

It’s on this latter note, however, that the writers sometimes stumble, with the socially aware subtext of embracing London’s multi-cultural nature (and its immigrants, among whom Paddington is an illegal one!), rammed home a little too hard. We get it early on but the repetitive nature of the message opens it up to criticism given the complexity of such a hot topic.

Similarly problematic is Kidman’s OTT villain, who just feels plain unnecessary. Paddington is undoubtedly at its best when existing within the fractured family dynamic realm that has previously served the likes of Mary Poppins so well and that is where it should have stayed.

Nevertheless, and in spite of such criticisms, it says much about the film’s strengths that Paddington remains recommended for many other reasons. It does charm.

Certificate: PG
Running time: 100mins
UK Blu-ray and DVD Release: March 23, 2015