Paddington Bear on the Big Screen

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Smarter than Your Average Bear Movie

paddington bear filmMany cinemas in South Africa open in 2015 with the release of the film Paddington Bear. In case you find yourself abroad at the time, here is the list of release dates worldide.

The premiere was in November 2014 in London, Great Britain. It took about seven years to bring Paddington Bear to the big screen, counting from the date when the live action film adaptation was first announced in September 2007.

The movie opened to practically universal praise. Rotten Tomatoes gave it a very high rating of 97%; out of 36 reviews submitted at the date of writing this, 35 were positive.

The film has been called a delightful update of Michael Bond's fictional creation; smarter than your average bear movie; and a cute family comedy with lots more going on than first meets the eye.

In these times, characterised by the raising spectre of xenophobia over much of Europe (including Britain), reviews were quick to note that the story of Paddington Bear is ultimately a story about foreigners, people who come to a place and want to be accepted. “The film focuses on a quality for which the British once prided themselves: a welcoming attitude towards refugees”, says one critic.

While that aspect of the movie will be lost on the youngest viewers, they are certain to enjoy the warmth, the magic and the plain silliness of the situations Paddington Bear manages to get himself into. Old fashioned, decent, charming, family-friendly… those are some of the most often used adjectives in connection with the film, which is why it came as a big shock (not the least to the 88 year old author of the book series Michael Bond) when the British Board of Film Classification gave the film  a PG rating because it contained: dangerous behaviour (Paddington once hides in a fridge), mild threat (a villain threatens to kill and stuff the bear), mild sexual references (a man flirts with another man disguised as a woman), and mild bad language (a mumbled use of the word bloody).

After a public uproar, the Board modified its wording, leaving the PG rating. However, everyone who saw the film, including parents who watched it with their young children, agrees that the only danger the audience is exposed to is - wetting themselves from laughing too much.

As to anyone who disagrees… we suspect that the fans of the movie (and they promise to be many) will give them a particularly hard stare, in the best Paddington Bear tradition.

First There Was the Book

paddington bear figurinesWhat is really surprising about Paddington Bear the movie is that this is the first time the popular little Briton… pardon, Peruvian… came to the big screen.

The friendly bear from deepest, darkest Peru: that is how its author, British writer Michael Bond, described Paddington the first time it appeared in 1958. The bear from Peru pops up at the Paddington Station in London (hence the name) where he is found and sort of adopted by a British family. Friendly and polite, Paddington Bear is always ready to take up a just cause and is forever getting into messy situations, like when he takes his first journey on the Underground, gets lost during a shopping trip, or decides to try his hand at painting.

The endearing Peruvian featured in more than twenty Paddington Bear books that have been translated into about 30 languages and sold more than 30 million copies worldwide. There are also Paddington Bear toys, collectible figurines, and video games. As for Paddington Bear DVDs, the famous bear featured in three TV series: a 1975 BBC series with Paddington as a stop-motion puppet; a1989 Hanna-Barbera mix of three and two dimensional characters; and a 1997 Cinar Filmstraditional two-dimensional colour animation.

Last but not least, there is a bronze statue of Paddington Bear by Marcus Cornish at Paddington Station, on the spot where the “real” Paddington Bear originally surfaced in London, all those years ago.

 

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