Christopher Robin. 2018.
Directed by Marc Forster.
Starring Ewan McGregor, Hayley Atwell, Bronte Carmichael, Mark Gatiss, Oliver Ford Davies, Ronke Adekoluejo, Adrian Scarborough, Roger Ashton-Griffiths, Ken Nwosu, John Dagleish, Amanda Lawrence, Orton O’Brien, Paul Chahidi, and featuring the voice talents of Jim Cummings, Brad Garrett, Toby Jones, Nick Mohammed, Peter Capaldi, Sophie Okonedo, and Sara Sheen.
A working-class family man, Christopher Robin, encounters his childhood friend Winnie-the-Pooh, who helps him to rediscover the joys of life.
Marc Forster’s Christopher Robin is a stuffy, glum ode to retaining childhood wonder that is no breezy waltz through the Hundred Acre Wood. In a time when family titles like Paddington, Incredibles 2 or even Peter Rabbit are *most recently* redefining how we enjoy “children’s entertainment,” Winnie the Pooh’s 2018 adventure is textbook age-and-fan-service. Shove Pooh Bear on camera, make his tummy grumble and repeat the line “Oh, bother” sometimes. Never get old, kids! Work is the enemy! Fun, fun, fun! I’m not saying these aren’t important adolescent ideals to cherish, but it took five writers to solve man’s greatest existential crisis by saying “Take a vacation, silly!
Am I being too cynical? For me to judge, you to comment on.
Ewan McGregor stars as a grown-up Christopher Robin, now Efficiency Manager of Winslow’s high-quality luggage division. Unfortunately, profits are down since no one’s vacationing during wartime so cuts have to be made. Either Christopher slashes costs by 20% or his division gets canned – and he’ll have to bail on yet another weekend family getaway to do so. This upsets wife Evelyn (Hayley Atwell) and daughter Madeline (Bronte Carmichael), who leave him to toil in peace. That’s when Pooh (voiced by Jim Cummings) appears in reality, ready to teach Christopher a valuable lesson about what’s most important in life – balloons, imagination and doing nothing.
You see, Hundred Acre Wood has developed a thick fog since Christopher left his childhood behind – flashback to Pooh leaning on pre-teen Christopher’s shoulder Drax/Rocket-like before the boy’s ship-off to boarding school. It’s been decades, and Christopher now understands nothing can be achieved without hard work and sacrifice. He’s even taught his little girl Madeline to value education, job ambitions and curriculum domination over “fun,” because, well, being successful is fun (lawl)! Except when Pooh comes to town and reminds Christopher that “nothing can lead to the best something,” not boss Giles Winslow’s (Mark Gatiss) misquotation “nothing leads to nothing.”
Regrettably, storytelling “fantasies” are a bit of an eye-roll. Doing nothing can be the greatest something? It takes over 100 minutes to hit the nail *directly* on the nose multiple times with an exhausting kind of kid-friendly boil that slogs between bouts of pristine adorableness. Pooh’s mischief and utter domicile destruction do the trick as expected (shelves make bad ladders, etc.), only to then continue a one-note trend of magical creatures not understanding human traits, interactions and what have you. As someone who’s spent years trying to desperately clutch onto creative fires that flickered so fiercely in my early years, Christopher Robin adds zero enlightenment to the conversation. Hoping to win family box office numbers on Pooh’s “small brained” charm alone.
The Hundred Acre Crew themselves all play their parts as we’d remember. Tigger (also Jim Cummings) sings “The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers,” Roo (voiced by Sara Sheen) asks mama incessant questions, Eeyore (voiced by Brad Garrett) is the lovable sad-sack who brightens up scenes with his witty melancholy commentary – but digital craftwork here feels…dusty. Scraggly fur tufts and button eyes don’t appeal as much as other animated equals, and a few scenes have trouble seamlessly inserting Pooh and others into bustling London streetscapes. They’re adorable, promiscuous, good-natured and wholly unprepared for off-the-page life…which we’ve seen before on comparably minimalist levels.
Enter Mr. McGregor – who embodies the desk jockey we all strive never to be and then inevitably turn into. He’s a reflection of the “adulthood” imprisonment kids fear, and one that might hit parents a wee tad close to home. It’s just, Foster illustrates this cinematic kiddie fable shallow enough for youngsters but leaves nothing on top for chaperones to skim off. The moral of Christopher Robin is to give your employees PTO so they can enjoy beachside trips and not to study too much as a child – make time for Treasure Island! Bosses are nothing but Heffalumps and Woozles who want to suck the fun out of your life. Don’t let them.
Unless, like, you desperately need the money just so you can scrounge up enough to even *afford* a decent vacation. That doesn’t take into account the job market, and OH WHAT AM I SAYING. Children’s films don’t have to be held *that* accountable, but in the case of Christopher Robin, Forster may take too simple a direction towards “Fun, good!” (read like a caveman).
I’m not saying there’s *nothing* to like about Christopher Robin. If your base-value for entertainment is a tubby pantsless bear tracking honey through a nice man’s house, boy do I have the Pooh Bear for you. If cute lines about Pooh’s incompetence make you chuckle as Christopher grows frustrated, the line forms here. If you’ll be gutted when Pooh asks Christopher to “let him go” because the talking toy can’t understand adult, no-happiness Christopher, bring a hanky. But if you’ll require more than a base-value allegory for life’s crippling stranglehold and the suffocating extinguisher that is “maturity” or “responsibility,” don’t expect more than springy-legged Tigger filling an important briefcase with sticks.
Sadly, and broken-heartedly, Pooh was better served in cartoons and in my imagination until now – and he still will be.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★★ / Movie: ★★
Matt spends his after-work hours posting nonsense on the internet instead of sleeping like a normal human. He seems like a pretty cool guy, but don’t feed him after midnight just to be safe (beers are allowed/encouraged). Follow him on Twitter/Instagram (@DoNatoBomb).