Paddington goes to Hollywood
Bears, particularly the fluffy, cuddly, soft-eyed kind, have a habit of worming their way into the affections of the average British family.
Just take the Browns, a perfectly ordinary London family with a statistics-obsessed Dad, a dotty Mum, two surly children and a batty aunt/thing. There they were, walking through Paddington Station, trying to avoid eye contact with chuggers, bloggers and drifters, and what happens?
A bear of course – you know the story don’t you? Anyway, this bear from darkest Peru somehow seems to work its way into their affections and the outcome, as we know, is a much-loved children’s story.
There have been other bears with similar sneaky habits. A slightly fatter – and it must be said, slightly thicker – Pooh Bear, and a toff bear called Aloysius, firm friend of Sebastian in Brideshead Revisited.
Still, back to Paddington, who comes to London after a family disaster, hoping to find someone to look after him, having inherited a deep love of all things British through a friendship with a British explorer in Peru.
There then follows a familiar tale of accidents, with taps, baths, things piled up high and anything with the faintest tang of marmalade about it. Some of these will be recognisable from the books by the original owner/author of Paddington, former Newbury resident Michael Bond, and some are new, having been created for the film by him.
There are a host of wonderful stars in Paddington the film, either as characterisations (Paddington is voiced by Ben Whishaw, who played Q in the latest James Bond film, or cameo appearances which include the fragrant Nicole Kidman as the taxidermy-obsessed daughter of the original explorer, or Matt Lucas as a London taxi driver, who comfortingly doesn’t get involved in an argument with a foul-mouthed ex-cabinet minister.
There are many others – Peter Capaldi, Jim Broadbent, Julie Walters and Hugh Bonneville are just a few – all giving a touch of class to this latest remastering of the popular tale.
The story is familiar – bear comes to London as an illegal immigrant, moves in with a family, claims marmalade support benefits and attracts the attention of animal stuffer Kidman who then plots, fruitlessly, to capture said bear and, well, you can imagine the rest.
To anyone remembering the original books and television series, voiced by the wonderful tones of the late Sir Michael Hordern, it might strike a slightly false note to see all the ‘filmic’ devices used to make the story fit for the movie screen, but that doesn’t matter all that much to the target audience of five to 10-year-old children.
They comprised the main constituent of the audience on review day, and they loved it, especially the bits involving people falling down a lot, or having sticky marmalade tipped on the head.
So, that’s all good then, but I just worry a little what our American cousins, who it is alleged invented the Teddy bear (some President person or other), will make of this quintessentially British tale.