Douglas has been a professional food writer since 1986. He is also an award-winning actor and director in Community Theatre and has been for many years. His blog may be found at: www.urbaneguerilla.wordpress.com
Published December 4th 2014
Better than a marmalade sandwich
I think I must have been about nine or ten when I first met Paddington. Michael Bond had just published the first book in the series and I fell in love with the bear from 'Darkest Peru' who lived on marmalade, wore a comfortable duffel coat and a battered hat.
He didn't replace Pooh in my affections, he was a different kind of bear, a mischief-making bear, a bear of olde-worlde courtesy and a bear that spread unwitting and un-intended havoc as he went about his well-meaning, but bumbling way.
When I heard that they were making a film about Paddington I was at once elated and anxious. Under no circumstances did I want the beloved companion of my youth Disneyed.
I need not have feared, the adaptation and final product is nothing short of sensational. The combination of skillful script writing and adaptation, inspired casting and absolutely incredible CGI is masterly.
We saw the first mix of animation and live actors with Dick van Dyke and those damned penguins in Mary Poppins - this is to Paddington as the Wright Brothers 'Flyer' is to Concorde.
The actors have a very good time of it indeed. The superb casting of Hugh Bonneville as crusty Mr Brown is just magical. A lovely man and a lovely actor, just seeing Lord Grantham from Downton Abbey disguised as a tea lady is worth the price of admission alone.
The actors are a mix of well-known (Sir Michael Gambon, Julie Walters [tiny touch of the Mrs Overall there], Nicole Kidman, Jim Broadbent and Peter Capaldi - giving a frighteningly creepy version of Eric Sykes) and lesser-known but still brilliant actors like Matt Lucas and Sally Hawkins as Mrs Brown, a lovely, rounded performance in a role she made her own.
But the acting accolade must go to almost unknown Ben Whishaw as the voice of Paddington. And here I must just digress to tell you that the animation is just unbelievably clever, just this side of absolute realism to retain the charm of the original, it is easy to accept Paddington as real.
The problems for the animators as they reproduced fur, covered in marmalade, water, sticky tape and blow-dried must have been horrendous, but worth every agonising minute.
It is a very funny film in the understated, we're not going to tell you the joke, you're going to have to look for it, kind of British way. For example the villainess (Nicole Kidman) is a taxidermist and her office has all these stuffed animal heads on the walls. As she passes from this room into the workroom behind we see the rest of the stuffed animals sticking out the other side of the wall.
There is much to admire, Ben Whishaw's flawless Paddington; the sight of Nicole Kidman running, yes, running, in six inch stilettos - the fact that they are snakeskin stillettos - Peter Capaldi's bunch of flowers, the tongue in cheek reference to Mission Impossible, the Heath Robinson contraptions, oh - all just too many to mention.
You will want to see this film often, just to see the jokes and references you missed the first couple of times. Take your children to see it. Borrow your sister's children, friends' children, go on your own and try to look as if the children have just slipped out to buy a choc ice, but go.
Michael Bond, now 88, must be very proud and pleased to see his bear, already honoured with a bronze statue at Paddington Station, come to life on the screen. When he saw the film he said: "I came, I saw, I was conquered."
Like the very best of English Christmas Panto there are jokes at every level, and deep, rich charm and enjoyment throughout.
This Christmas, whatever you do, don't miss Paddington.
Very Highly Recommended Indeed. I give it five marmalade sandwiches out of five.
Very observant about the snake skin stilettos; I didn't spot that.
hat did you think about the beginning, where we meet Paddington for the first time, not at the station, but in his native Peru? I was first annoyed about what happened to Uncle Pastuzo because it doesn't fit with the books, but it does work very well for the film.