The British Board of Film Classification has taken the curious step of giving Paddington, the Studiocanal family movie about the polite bear from deepest darkest Peru, a PG rating. The Parental Guidance certificate has surprised many in the UK, especially as it originally came with a warning of “dangerous behavior, mild threat, mild sex references, (and) mild bad language.” The author of the original book series, Michael Bond, told The Daily Mail, “I’m totally amazed… I might not sleep well tonight. I can’t imagine what the sex references are.” The BBFC later amended its wording after an approach by distributor Studiocanal, and replaced “sex references” with “innuendo.” On its website, the board said the innuendo comes during a scene in which Hugh Bonneville is dressed as a woman and “is flirted with by another man.” I asked the BBFC if the issue would have been different had it been a man and a woman flirting and was told that innuendo is classified equally regardless of the gender or sexuality of the characters. The “bad” language, which was downgraded to “infrequent mild bad language,” refers to “a single mumbled use of the word ‘bloody’.” Some folks I’ve spoken with today who’ve seen the film are puzzled at the PG, rather than a U for universal (the equivalent of a G). And some parents I’ve queried say the BBFC’s cautions would not deter them from taking their kids to see it. The BBFC said Studiocanal “was content with the PG certificate for the film.”
Bonneville for his part told the BBC, “I was scratching my head thinking ‘what are the censors talking about?’ There were four- and five-year-olds watching it the other day laughing uproariously, so I don’t think it’s going to damage any young children — or indeed any 75-year-olds.”
Paddington is a CGI/live-action adaptation of the beloved children’s books from Harry Potter producer David Heyman. The bear is voiced by Ben Whishaw who stepped in for Colin Firth a few months ago; Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Peter Capaldi and Nicole Kidman also star. The latter plays an evil taxidermist. That’s where the “threat” level came into play for the BBFC which cited a scene where Kidman’s character chases the bear and threatens to kill and stuff him. Potentially imitable behavior includes Paddington hiding inside a refrigerator and riding a skateboard while holding on to a bus.
Films with a PG rating are described by the BBFC as suitable for general viewing, but “some scenes may be unsuitable for young children. A PG film should not unsettle a child aged around eight or older. Parents should consider whether the content may upset younger, or more sensitive, children.” Putting that in context, recent PG-rated films have included Frozen (for mild threat) and How To Train Your Dragon 2 (mild violence and threat), while The Lego Movie, despite “some very mild bad language, with uses of ‘butt’, ‘bum’, ‘darn’ and ‘heck’,” was given a Universal certificate. Studiocanal is releasing Paddington on November 28 in Britain, and The Weinstein Co has it in the U.S. where it’s set to bow on January 16. There’s no MPAA rating yet.