4 hours ago
Wednesday, 10 December 2014
I'd never seen any representation at all of the eponymous being in comics or TV programmes, but I'd gleaned enough to know what I was in for - viz that P.B. hailed from Peru, spoke English, had a large penchant for marmalade, wore a duffle coat - and was created by Michael Bond.
Voiced agreeably by Ben Whishaw, the bear finds himself on London's Paddington station, having expected that the English would be falling over themselves to take care of him. Far from that being the case, he is eventually pitied on and picked up by a family consisting of all-sweetness and sympathy Sally Hawkins, with uninterested hubby Hugh Bonneville and their two teenage children (of whom, mercifully, we only see a modicum). Taking him to their central London home (which must have cost them several million £s) where there's also ageing, slightly doddery but wise relative, Julie Walters, P.B. creates havoc with various domestic appliances, especially in the bathroom. There's also cantankerous neighbour, Peter Capaldi, (the current Dr Who), who wants rid of the bear - but above all, Nicole Kidman, playing arch-villainess up to the hilt with icy precision, whose aim is to have the bear as a stuffed exhibit, he being the sole captured specimen of that species.
Although it's all very efficiently done (these days one demands nothing less) in a fairy tale-like, impossibly clean, idealised London, there's little originality to hold one's attention - kidnapping, break-in, rescue being foiled, eventually the 'baddie' getting her just deserts, it observes the rules of a children's story - and I dare say that children will be satisfied by it. But for adults, despite the originality of the title character, I didn't see anything distinctive enough about it to make it memorable.
Director Paul King, whose first feature film this appears to be, does what he can with the relatively flimsy material.
Undemanding fayre for the festive season then, but might have gone down better with a glass of port or sherry beforehand.........................5/10.