Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 29th November, 2014
When I was a small boy I often used to go to the cinema in Monton near Eccles, which had a sixpenny Saturday afternoon matinée. And it was there that for the one and only time in my life I sat through a film twice: 101 Dalmatians. I don’t suppose there are many cinemas left in the country where one could just stay put to see a film a second time, but had I been a child today and were it possible, I would have stayed on for a second showing of Paddington, Paul King’s affectionate take on the Paddington Bear stories, which I saw at my local Genesis Cinema in Stepney Green this evening. I have never read the books, and I know the author was a little taken aback by some of the liberties the film takes with his characters, but the overall result is a triumph. It could all have been mawkishly saccharine — particularly in the run-up to Christmas — but from the black and white prologue onward, giving a very camp and tongue-in-cheek impression of the Explorer Mongomery Clyde engaging with the bears in Deepest Peru, the film is a riot of fun action, sharp characterisation and a mixture of gags aimed at an adult audience as well as at kids. There’s even a referential bow to 101 Dalmatians, in that the malignant taxidermist Millicent (played by Nicole Kidman in a blonde wig) is a mirror image of Cruella de Ville. Half the members of the Garrick Club, from Hugh Bonneville (as Mr Brown) to Michael Gambon (the voice of Uncle Pastuzo), seem to have been involved in the film’s making. Indeed, Paddington revels in its Britishness, at times nostalgic, but never reactionary or UKIPpy. Rather, like the calypso that ends the film, it is a celebration of multicultural London, a city that might seem cold and wet at first but which usually in the end opens its heart to someone whoever they are and wherever they come from.