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dir-scr Paul King
prd David Heyman
with Ben Whishaw, Sally Hawkins, Hugh Bonneville, Nicole Kidman, Samuel Joslin, Madeleine Harris, Julie Walters, Peter Capaldi, Jim Broadbent, Matt Lucas, Imelda Staunton, Michael Gambon
release UK 28.Nov.14, US 16.Jan.15
14/UK StudioCanal 1h35
Making inquiries: Paddington and Bonneville
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
With a script that's packed with hilariously surreal gags and sharp characters, this family adventure manages to avoid the usual pitfalls. Yes, the slapstick is ridiculous, and the sentiment sometimes swells a bit, but there's a continual stream of genuinely clever humour and a plot, plus some lovely directorial touches that hit all the right beats.
Raised in darkest Peru by his aunt and uncle (voiced by Staunton and Gambon), a young bear (Whishaw) travels to London, a land his family learned about from an explorer. At Paddington Station, he is given an English name by the Brown family: safety-obsessed dad (Bonneville), life-loving mum (Hawkins), surly teen Judy (Harris), inventive younger brother Jonathan (Joslin) and feisty Mrs Bird (Walters). While he searches for the explorer and a permanent home in London, Paddington also becomes a target for taxidermist Millicent (Kidman), who's desperate to secure his species for the Natural History Museum.
Fortunately, writer-director King (Bunny and the Bull) never over-eggs this villainous subplot, merely using it as an excuse for an action-oriented climactic sequence in the museum, the outcome of which is never in doubt. Indeed, the entire final act is merely a series of punchlines for everything the script has set up earlier, from character arcs to running gags. There isn't a loose thread left dangling. And King makes sure that every scene bursts with whizzy visual trickery that will be a joy to keep discovering on subsequent viewings.
The actors are fine as characters who pretty much play themselves, but require up-for-it players who are willing to look silly. Bonneville is game for everything, including a spot of raucous cross-dressing, while Kidman gets to be slinky and snaky before her requisite comeuppance. Hawkins is radiant as the family's voice of reason, while Walters provides a bright spark of comic relief, as does Capaldi as a nosey neighbour.
Through all of the mayhem, Whishaw gives Paddington a hapless, curious, mischievous soul that makes him genuinely likeable. And while the film carries the usual "love makes a family" message, it also has just enough bite to keep the audience unsure where the next gag might emerge. And because King refuses to push the slapstick and sentiment too far over the top, the film remains so entertaining that we almost look forward to the further adventures of this adorable little bear.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S|
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© 2014 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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