Movie Review: Christopher Robin

Winnie the Pooh’s friend has grown up and lost his way

Christopher Robin
Directed by Marc Forster
With Ewan McGregor, Hayley Atwell, Jim Cummings, Brad Garrett

Characters in classic children’s books tend to stay the same age. The new Disney film Christopher Robin contemplates what would happen to Christopher Robin, the human friend of Winnie the Pooh, once he left the magical Hundred Acre Wood and made a life of his own in the real world.

After a brief opening set in childhood, Ewan McGregor takes over as the adult Christopher Robin, now married and living in post-war London. He has long forgotten about Pooh, Tigger, Piglet and the rest of the talking animals.

The carefree boy has grown up to be a minor executive in a luggage company and is facing tough decisions as the company wants to downsize if they can’t turn a profit.

His imagination seems to have vanished. He also has his daughter, Madeline (Bronte Carmichael) studying nonstop so she can go to a good school, instead of ever playing.

Clearly, some things will have to change.

With CGI improving so much recently, there have been several attempts to mix actors with animated figures to re-create popular childhood tales. The recent Peter Rabbit was a truly dreadful, filled with oddly mean-spirited humor. Paddington Bear has had two movies, Paddington in 2014 and Paddington 2 in 2017. They were charming enough and had some truly funny moments.

Christopher Robin is perhaps the best of this bunch, at least for adult viewers. The script takes the issue of growing up very seriously, while at the same time presenting a good helping of fun with Winnie the Pooh and his friends.

Director Marc Forster’s credits include the James Bond film Quantum of Solace and the zombie film World War Z, as well as Finding Neverland, a 2004 film based on the origins of Peter Pan.

He brings a solid sense of fantasy and adventure to Christopher Robin. A key part of the film is a long chase that will have everyone hoping for a good outcome. It isn’t as over the top as a James Bond chase, but still very solid.

The CGI animals express a range of emotion and have gotten away from the robotic stiffness of early attempts to create talking stiffed animals.

Pooh, in particular, is written very smartly, often dropping incredible wisdom and insight in his simple phrases. Tigger is also well-developed. In the English version, veteran voice actor Jim Cummings does both Pooh and Tigger.

Eeyore tends to be a bit on the negative side, and the others including Piglet are more in the background.

For the kids, the plot revolves around the stuffed animals and their exploits in a modern world they are not familiar with. Adults will be more drawn into the adult Christopher Robin’s problems in balancing work and family. The speeches by his wife, Evelyn (Hayley Atwell), will ring true for a lot of couples.

There are some evil characters, but they are substantially toned down compared to most children’s films. The main bad character is Christopher’s boss, Giles Winslow Jr (Mark Gatiss), and his main sin is putting profit over people, as well as ignoring his own family legacy.

Christopher Robin isn’t so much fighting an external villain as he is struggling with himself over what he knows is right and what he sees as his duty.

Ewan McGregor, perhaps still best-known for playing a junkie in Trainspotting, has become a very versatile actor. He adds an innocent touch to his portrayal of Christopher Robin, making him a very sympathetic character who has lost his way.

When he eventually finds himself back among his old childhood friends, you can see him slowly recapturing the sense of what he really should value.

Christopher Robin manages to deliver its messages of finding the proper priorities without being too preachy about it.

There are the expected speeches at the end, but the quite literal journey getting there has been a lot of fun.

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