Friday 17 November 2017

Growing up with Paddington & Paddington 2

Marmalade sandwiches all round!  Paddington is back in the cinema but before I get to talking about the film, I want to take you back in time.  Not far, just a couple of weeks, to half-term when we were in London.

Lucas happened across a mention of a props exhibition for Paddington 2 at The Museum of London while reading 'First News'.  (An excellent introduction to tough news stories for kids.). I looked it up online and discovered that not only was there an exhibition, there was to be a talk the next day by Karen Jankel, Michael Bond's daughter, all about growing up with Paddington!

Karen's talk was wonderfully warm and engaging.  We all sat enthralled for half an hour as she described how her father found the bear who would become Paddington on a snowy Christmas Eve in Selfridges and had to take him home as a present for her mother as, "He couldn't leave that little bear there, all alone, over Christmas."  Michael Bond had always wanted to write, but had never progressed beyond little snippets of ideas--I know the feeling--that he thought might one day make quite a good story.  One day while passing through Paddington Station he thought that Paddington would make a good name for a character and when he got home and saw the little bear he had the most wonderful thought..."What if there was a bear, called Paddington?"  And from there, Paddington Bear was born.

One little nugget that I found really amusing was that Michael Bond originally had Paddington as being from deepest, darkest Africa.  His agent sent the book back saying that it was very good, but that bears don't live in Africa and he should perhaps do a little research.  After several trips to the library he settled upon Peru as he discovered the Spectacle Bear and thus Paddington was relocated.  Another story which left Lucas astounded was the tale of how Paddington really acquired his wellington boots. A lady in Yorkshire called Sheila Clarkson made a toy Paddington for her little boy but he kept falling over and so she decided to pop him into a pair of wellies so that they'd prop him upright. And then she began to sell them.  Eventually Michael Bond came to hear about this, and there was a little bit of boring legal stuff, but the really interesting part is that that first Paddington toy was made for a small boy called Jeremy Clarkson.  Yes, Jezza.  I know!!

It was lovely to hear how family anecdotes made it into the stories. I remember giggling when I read the story where Paddington decided to wallpaper the living room, papered over the door and couldn't find his way out.  It turns out that actually happened to Karen's uncle!  There was a slide showing a young Karen on a tricycle and her father wondered what would happen if Paddington rode one...he accidentally took part in the Tour de France of course!

Lucas and I thoroughly enjoyed the talk.  I must say I was really relieved to hear that Karen loved growing up with Paddington.  I had feared that she might have grown to resent him, as the real Christopher Robin did with Pooh Bear.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Paddington was like a member of their family and that really was the icing on the cake.

So, back to the future.  We saw Paddington 2 on Sunday after brunch and as much as I enjoyed the first film, the sequel was much better!  Which is rather rare for sequels, I must say! When the film begins we see how Paddington has settled into life with the Brown family in Windsor Gardens and how he's brightening the lives of those around him, well except Mr Curry who remains delightfully suspicious of poor Paddington.  He misses his Aunt Lucy, though, and really wants to buy her something special for her birthday.

Naturally this is where things start to go wrong for Paddington.  Always assuming that everyone is as naturally good as him, he mentions the pop-up book of London he's saving up for to the a fading actor named Phoenix Buchanan (played rather fabulously by Hugh Grant), who promptly steals it and leaves Paddington to take the blame.  I do wonder if this will be Hugh's comeback film?  He is parodying himself at points--Phoenix's house is filled with photographs of Hugh in his romcom days--and I think this is the first time I've ever considered that he actually has range.  (You'll understand why when you see the film!!)

The story rollicks along, with many twists and turns, some fantastic slapstick comedy that is judged perfectly and also provides a perfect antidote to some of the more emotional scenes.  Maybe I'm hormonal but I had a little tear in my eye at a few points and the second-to-last scene had me reaching for the tissues.

It is rare for a sequel to surpass the original film but Paddington 2 does. It is brimming with wit, charm and fun.  Paddington's motto, "If you're kind and polite, then everything will come right," is often repeated in the film and in these unsettled times I think the world could definitely do with a dose of good old-fashioned kindness and hope.  Definitely worth seeing at the cinema, and stay for the credits!!



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