Paddington Bear’s first ever big screen adventure arrives in the midst of an unlikely controversy. The British Board of Film Classification initially cited “mild sex references” as part of the reason for its PG rating, but following a complaint from the film’s distributors, this phrase was downgraded to mere “innuendo”. Either way, there’s no need to worry – the duffle coat fan from darkest Peru hasn’t been turned into a snout-nosed Inbetweener type; produced by Harry Potter‘s David Heyman, this is a likeable kids’ film sprinkled with the odd joke for grown-ups.
Following the death of his Uncle Pastuzo, our furry hero leaves behind his kindly Aunt Lucy and the Peruvian rainforest and travels to London in pursuit of a new beginning. Upon arrival, he soon discovers that the British capital isn’t the drizzly promised land he had envisaged, but an even drizzlier metropolis where people are apparently too busy to notice a small bear with a hat and a battered suitcase standing on his own in the middle of Paddington Station. Reluctantly, the Brown clan headed up by reliable British thesps Hugh Bonneville and Sally Hawkins take in this not-so-grizzly stranger, after naming him after the place in which he was found, and “Paddington” quickly begins wreaking havoc for their kids and housekeeper, played by a scene-stealing Julie Walters; within his first five minutes at their cosy West London home, Paddington manages to flood the bathroom. This sprightly 95-minute film follows his struggle to adjust to civilised family life while dodging Nicole Kidman’s Cruella de Vil-style baddie, a taxidermist who wants to have Paddington stuffed and put on display at the Natural History Museum.
Brought to life with a combination of animatronics and CGI, plus the voice of Skyfall star Ben Whishaw, Paddington Bear retains the hapless charm that’s made him a family favourite since author Michael Bond created him in the late 1950s: he drinks tea from the spout of the pot; uses a toothbrush to clean out his earholes, and in one memorable scene ends up skateboarding frantically down Portobello Road. But for all its cute visual gags and lolzy pratfalls, Paddington manages to sign off with an unexpectedly touching message: in a big city filled with lots of different types of people, anyone, however much of an outsider, can find a way to fit in. Even if you’re dragged along by someone much younger than you, don’t be surprised to leave craving a marmalade sandwich.