Paddington (PG) – Alnwick Playhouse; 7.30pm, Friday, January 9, and 2pm, Saturday, January 10
More than 50 years after he first appeared in print, author Michael Bond’s beloved bear Paddington has finally arrived on the big screen in his first star-packed family adventure.
Upcoming director Paul King’s film lovingly weaves the traditional tenets of the duffel-coat wearing bear’s story into a modern narrative.
Like the books, the film starts in deepest, darkest Peru, where a well-mannered three-foot bear (voiced by Ben Whishaw) lives with his elderly Aunt Lucy (Imelda Staunton) and Uncle Pastuzo (Michael Gambon).
In their youth, Lucy and Pastuzo were visited by a kindly English explorer who left his red hat with his furry friends.
When their home is threatened, Aunt Lucy packs her nephew off to the safety of London to track down the explorer, who has promised that there will always be a home for them in the capital.
Of course, after sailing the oceans in a boat filled with supplies of his treasured marmalade, the bear finds London isn’t actually that friendly.
In fact it’s pretty miserable what with the drizzly weather and glum commuters pushing and shoving their way out of Paddington station and ignoring his pleas for a home.
“Sorry, we haven’t got time for this,” cries worrywart Mr Brown (Hugh Bonneville), while his moody daughter Judy (Madeleine Harris) exclaims she’s “embarrassed” to be near the small grisly, who has a ‘Please look after this bear’ sign around his neck.
Luckily, warm-hearted Mrs Brown (Sally Hawkins) and son Jonathan (Samuel Joslin) vow to take the furry chap home for the night.
Naming him Paddington after the station where they found him, the Browns introduce their guest to kindly housekeeper Mrs Bird (Julie Walters).
But disaster soon strikes when Paddington tries to freshen up in the bathroom, resulting in a flood, two earwax-stained toothbrushes and a sharp telling off.
Determined to find the explorer, Mrs Brown takes Paddington to see her friend Mr Gruber (Jim Broadbent), an antiques dealer who might have clues to his existence, but, in doing so, they attract the attention of cranky curtain twitcher Mr Curry (Peter Capldi) and a slimy associate of villainous taxidermist Millicent (Nicole Kidman) who is hell-bent on “stuffing that bear”.
With Millicent determined to get her mitts on Paddington to display him in the Natural History Museum, the Browns find themselves on a humdinger of a cat and mouse chase to try and keep their furry friend safe.
As comforting and sweet as Paddington’s beloved marmalade, King’s delightful adaptation has heaps of heart and enough humour and carefully plotted cameos to ensure everyone more than grins and bears his adaptation.