Movie Review: Christopher Robin

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From Walt Disney Studios

At the ripe age of five, A.A. Milne’s tales of boy and animals scouring the 100 Acre Woods presented itself more as revelation than a fascination. Nothing is easier on the eyes for a tantrum riddled toddler than adventure. With kind hearted characters with adventurous sensibilities and an apatite for life, I couldn’t help but be enchanted by its whimsical charm. In fact, I couldn’t even sleep at night without my trusted stuffed-animal Tigger by my side. And I am glad to report I can sleep well at night once again knowing that the live-action rendition of my childhood pals features creatures every bit as winsome as the ones that won over my heart all those years ago.

The story, as it goes in Disney’s adaptation, is remarkably quite simple. Winnie the Pooh has lost his honey, and Christopher Robin (Ewan Mcgregor) is at risk of losing his honey–and child. As an adult he has been working overtime in London at a mid-level luggage company, where his family yearns for him to pack his bags and take a vacation of his own. It is here where director Marc Foster barks up the wrong tree. Milne’s celebrated imagination doesn’t seem to be at the root of anything here. Instead, we take the familiar struggling father route, which similar to “Hook”, sees our hero part from his buddies (the animals) in hopes of finding material success.

These animals are presented not as fictional beings, rather, they are animated personalities understood by humans. Yet Christopher has tossed them to the way side the way Andy left his toys behind in “Toy Story 3.” The difference is, Pooh and friends are assuredly alive and certainly aren’t toys.

For a series with such lively characters, it is hard to imagine how it is this film lacks life itself. One answer can be found in five credited screenwriters. We end up watching one-note Ewan Mcgregor have to fire people. If I wanted to see that, I would have tuned into Trump’s “The Apprentice.” Foster seems to be more concerned with his human heroes, rather than his animals. It isn’t until our lovable bear Pooh (voiced adorably by Jim Cummings) stumbles through a fantastical portal to seek out Christopher that the film stumbles upon its appeal. Pooh gives great lasting advice, and is a warm presence among the otherwise calloused Robin family.

I believe “Christopher Robin” would have benefited, with, well, less Christopher Robin — or at least without his marital problems. It’s as if Foster and Disney forgot they were supposed to making a kids movie. Their film evangelizes the harmony in friendship and family (Geoff Zanelli’s score rings true), yet the film’s droll tone, elongated pace, and unforgiving portrait of a hard-working father made me feel as neglected as Pooh and his pals. You begin to wonder; where is the transcendent magic that once leaped off the the page to transform even the hardest of hearts? The good news is, the slow, cuddly personas are back and are here to turn your frowns upside down.

In an opening scene we follow young Christopher and the gang frolicking about the lush British country side during tea time. There’s nothing quite like tea, crumpets, and Eeyore rolling his eyes, flopping his gargantuan ears, and proclaiming “I don’t remember being happy”. Even a film as bleak as this couldn’t change a tigers stripes. Of course Piglet, Rabit, Owl, and Kanga are back as well, voiced with unwavering grace that holds up to their temperaments. The animation is equally playful.

As fun as it is to watch the (non human) characters play off each other, it really doesn’t negate the fact that “Christopher Robin” (the human) is kind of a bore. This is an equally boisterous and boring work by Disney. And with Pooh’s moto being “do nothing”, you kind of wish Disney had taken its own advice. Halfway through I found myself leaning toward my old pal Tigger’s advice, and thought about bouncing. Even if Disney wasn’t here for me, at least I know Tigger still is.


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