What’s the hype?

When I was younger, I loved both animated films and TV series. The X-Men, Green Lantern, Teen Titans, The Incredibles. I was not immune to the craze and the fantasy that animation created for my younger self. And then, I grew up.

I’m not saying that I don’t still enjoy the occasional binge of meme-favourite The Bee Movie, or laugh at adult cartoons like Family Guy, but c’mon, Paddington? Paddington interestingly stars legendary actors such as Julie Walters, and Sally Hawkins, recent Oscar nominee for Best Actress in The Shape of Water. It presents Nicole Kidman as the ultimate villain, proving that botox can give you a face that chooses your roles for you. One might think that this dreamboat of actors equates to a great film, but you will be sorely disappointed. Acclaimed actors pretending to be quirky British stereotypes in a clean and empty London, is both laughable and insulting to someone who has spent many a day trying to find a seat in an overcrowded and gum-infested train carriage.

Now I have to move on to what is – for me – the greatest slip-up of this farce of a film: the animated bear. As I have mentioned, I am perfectly accepting of the fan favourites of studios such as Pixar, and even the stop-motion creations of Wes Anderson. However I must now address my distain at the incredible technological advances of what is known as CGI. Does anyone remember the show Bananas in Pyjamas? It was brilliant, grown men dressed up as bananas who were wearing pyjamas. Classic British kids television. And then in May 2011, Southern Star Entertainment comes out with a shitty CGI version of creepy ripe yellow bananas with weird smiles and squinty eyes. I can only imagine the therapy sessions. The point of the matter is, we are talking about children’s entertainment, aimed at kids who surprisingly enough have the capacity to imagine that Paddington is a real bear — without Dave in special effects spending 18 months working on the twinkle in Paddington’s eye.

‘Acclaimed actors pretending to be quirky British stereotypes in a clean and empty London, is both laughable and insulting to someone who has spent many a day trying to find a seat in an overcrowded and gum-infested train carriage’

I am not going to pretend, however, that Paddington is not a critically acclaimed sensation, sparking an apparently “much better” and “actually pretty good” sequel. Rotten Tomatoes (although who actually listens to those guys) gave the film an unbelievable 97% on the Tomatometer, because that seems a legitimate way to critique film. The Sunday Times said: “It is quite unlike any other meditation on paranoia and displacement I have seen.” No, not an interpretation, or even a take, but a “meditation on paranoia and displacement”. The plot of the film is a bear that gets lost. Has no-one seen Wall-E? Even that was more believable that this trollop. After endless scanning of film critics who seemed to be amazed by even the idea of a talking bear, I came to an article by the good folks over at The Independent, who, like me, agreed that the story was “choppy and very episodic”, which is perhaps the more academic and less anger-induced point you may want to focus on.

I must remind you that we are talking about a film in which a young Peruvian bear with a British accent is taken in by a family of Londoners, who welcome a stranger into their home and treat him like one of their own. And they say I’m crazy.

– Jaysim Hanspal, Online Music Editor

In defence of:

Upon having a seemingly innocuous conversation with a friend recently, I was shocked to hear her say the most horrible, and frankly untrue things about Paul King’s masterful Paddington, released in 2014. This upset me mostly because it made its way very quickly into my roster of favourite films, and even now I still think of it as one of the best children’s films to have been released this decade. Naturally, I did the mature thing and cut said ‘friend’ out of my life.

When I first watched it, I remember being worried that the filmmakers would have sacrificed the tone and essence of the books in favour of ‘modernising’ them for contemporary audiences, as we have seen recently in the cinematographic travesty that is Peter Rabbit, released earlier this year. What we get with Paddington, though, is a wonderful story with a clear pro-diversity message for our troubled times, told in a way that doesn’t compromise the spirit of Michael Bond’s books. This is, I think, the most important thing when considering a film adaptation of a cultural institution such as the Paddington books; stray too far from the source material and you risk alienating a portion of your viewership. As a self-proclaimed purist when it comes to children’s books, I certainly didn’t feel alienated by Paddington.

‘Paddington is a wonderful story with a clear pro-diversity message for our troubled times, told in a way that doesn’t compromise the spirit of Michael Bond’s books’

Its concept is a simple one: a talking bear who has learned everything he knows (or thinks he knows) about London from a mid-century record, left behind in his native jungle in “Darkest Peru” by an explorer, emigrates to the city in search of a better life after the death of his uncle in an earthquake. There he is taken in by the benevolent Brown family, who help him escape the clutches of an evil taxidermist, played with flair and surprising humour by Nicole Kidman. The various misunderstandings that arise from this cultural mix are funny and well-executed enough to please adults and children alike, and the film is packed full of visual gags that keep viewers on their toes.

The welcoming London reception promised to Paddington by his record (that also assures that Londoners have 107 ways of saying “it’s raining”) is shown to be a misconception, as the frosty response he receives at the eponymous station sets the tone for the attitudes of many characters in the film. This is clearly a thinly-veiled critique of the mistrustful nature of many Western (and in this case, British) people’s views of immigrants. This is exemplified in the film by the Brown family’s neighbour, the ironically named Mr Curry, who complains that with the arrival of Paddington will come “jungle music” and “all-night picnics”. Perish the thought. The inclusion of this message both enhances the original story by highlighting its focus on inclusion, and adds an extra dimension to an already effective story.

On top of all this, we are treated to some truly wonderful performances by a stellar cast. I’ve already mentioned Nicole Kidman, who shines in her role as a villain, while Hugh Bonneville and Sally Hawkins are sweet and, above all, very believable as the Browns, who grow to love Paddington as much as the audience do. Julie Walters as Mrs Bird is excellent casting as she has some scene-stealing moments, not least at the film’s climax.
I could go on and on singing this film’s praises, but if you are that way inclined, feel free to peruse my former friend’s thoughts across the page. All I will say is that we need more positive stories of inclusion such as Paddington to set an example for our young minds to follow as we move into a very uncertain political future.

– George Pope

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