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When it comes to modern adaptations of beloved children’s media, Hollywood has many, many more failures than successes - at least critically. (I don’t care if Yogi Bear made $100 million; it was a picnic basket full of trite garbage.) But the upcoming StudioCanal/Heyday Films feature transition for little old Paddington Bear is high on my list of anticipated 2014 releases for quite a few reasons, not the least of which is the impeccable cast and the lifelong love I have for Michael Bond’s book series. Plus, Paddington isn’t as annoyingly self-aware as any of The Smurfs or the Chipmunks. The teaser above gives us our first look at the CGI ball of fluff, complete with his beat-up hat, and it makes me want to start traveling more.
Academy Award –winner Colin Firth gives his voice to the duffle-coated bear, whom it appears will be found much as he was in the original stories. Paddington was originally conceived as a Dark Peruvian stowaway who arrived at Paddington Station with a battered suitcase and a note that says "Please look after this bear. Thank you." (You can find that note at the very end of the preview, via Yahoo!.) I can’t think of a better way to initially promote this film than referencing that exact origin, so this is a great first look. Plus, they don’t even give us a full shot of Paddington himself, which might have incited some CGI-naysaying. Remember Scooby-Doo?
From the train station, Paddington is taken into the home of the Brown family, who don’t try very hard to give him an original name. Mr. Brown (Hugh Bonneville) and Mrs. Brown (Sally Hawkins), along with their children Judy (Madeleine Harris) and Jonathan (Samuel Joslin), aren’t at all afraid of having a bear in their home, and they’re wonderful family to Paddington. It looks like all will be well forever, but it wouldn’t be much of a film without a conflict, so enter Nicole Kidman as a taxidermist who gets wind that the Browns are housing a rare bear.
This project is kind of like Ramona and Beezus rather than an adaptation of a cartoon series, because we first got to know him through words and pictures instead of animation. I really hope there are zero fart gags or "Does an immigrant bear shit in the woods?" jokes peppered into the script, written by the awesome Mighty Boosh director Paul King, who also helmed the feature. I guess I’ll find out once Paddington’s train rolls into the theatrical station on December 12th.
Remember the old Paddington stop-motion segments? Here’s one with some Gene Kelly flavor.