When I was at Craiglockhart Primary School in the 1960’s, I was taught for a couple of years by Mrs Sim, a fan of the Dr Scholl exercise sandal and the Paddington books of Michael Bond. On many Friday afternoons and at the ends of terms, she would sit on the edge of her desk and read aloud to the class tales of the lost-in-translation Peruvian bear, often dangling a Scholl sandal from the toes of her crossed leg. Sometimes the sun would shine in beams through the chalky air.
Time passes; Mrs Sim left school to have her own family and I had to read the rest of the books myself…more time passes, decades in fact, and I find myself watching the triumph of CGI and animatronics that is the Paddington film in the first few days of the new year of 2015.
It’s very good – in terms of the CGI, I can’t imagine how that can get any better; the titular hero is truly believable and his supporting cast work well with him. You will believe bears drink marmalade by the pint. Paddington’s ultimate weapon of persuasion, the “long, hard stare,” although not named, is well rendered.
The PG certificate is a bit daft, for “dangerous behaviour, mild threat, mild sex references [and] mild bad language” according to the BFI. The Wizard of Oz would never get a certificate by these standards. Fair enough, Paddington eschews the steps and uses the bannister to walk up the staircase in his adopters’ house; he wrecks their bathroom and holds onto the back of a bus while on a skateboard. And I guess Nicole Kidman’s shoes are a lot strappier than mad taxidermists usually wear when tooling about the Natural History Museum…but it’s a film, for God’s sake and they’re not ruby slippers.
I don’t see a lot of kids’ films, but the few I have in the last few years have usually annoyed me by having thinly veiled “adult” jokes somewhere along the line, which I think is both disingenuous and liable to date the film. Luckily, there’s none of that in Paddington and it’s a pleasure to watch. There’s even a sweet little cameo from Michael Bond.
Mrs Sim is probably dead now, but I think she would have enjoyed it.