Paddington, film review: Michael Bond's polite hero is brought into the modern day

(PG) Dir. Paul King; Starring Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, 95mins
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Paddington begins, naturally, in darkest Peru, with a pastiche of those scratchy old black-and-white ethnographic documentaries in which an English explorer befriends the natives. Only in this case, the natives are talking bears.

The explorer promises them a warm reception, should they ever have cause to visit him in London, but by the time a natural disaster forces one of the bears' youngsters to voyage overseas, we have reached the present day, and poor Paddington initially finds London "a strange, cold city".

He's taken in by the terribly nice middle-class Brown family, of course, but reluctantly and conditionally at first, and as the only talking brown bear in the city, he still feels somewhat alone and uncertain. At one point we see him sleeping rough on a park bench.

What the makers of this heartwarming British comedy have done, to bring Michael Bond's endearingly polite ursine hero into the modern day, is make a film about the immigrant experience.

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The touching story follows Paddington as he makes a new home for himself in London

The soundtrack features Lord Kitchener's "London Is the Place for Me" and other ironic Windrush-era calypso songs, performed onscreen by Tobago Crusoe and his band. They may be the only black faces on show in a world of Georgian-fronted three-storey townhouses and marmalade sandwiches, but it's a neat way of acknowledging the ways in which the city has changed since the first Paddington books were published in the late Fifties.

The film-makers also put Paddington on a skateboard and send him kite-surfing; give him a villainous taxidermist from whose clutches he must escape; quote from Mission: Impossible and Raiders of the Lost Ark; fill every scene with witty gags and slapstick; find parts for some of Britain's most recognisable acting and comedy talent; and do all the other things that make for successful family movies.

But through it all runs the touching story of an outsider making a new home for himself, and discovering that in the end, whatever our differences, "anyone in London can fit in".

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