“Christopher Robin”- Movie Review

It’s virtually impossible to hate Winnie the Pooh. If you do, odds are you don’t have a soul. Granted, the stories of Winnie the Pooh and his adventures in the Hundred-Acre Wood aren’t for everyone, though there’s no denying the lasting impression they make on people’s lives, mine included. I adore the classic 1977 film and the subsequent TV series that came around in the late 80s. So when it was announced that Disney would be re-visiting the franchise, you can imagine how eager I was to see some of my most cherished childhood characters on the big screen.

From director Marc Forster comes a live-action rendition that explores Christopher Robin’s life beyond the Hundred-Acre Wood. He says goodbye to his animal friends and goes off to boarding school, and over time he loses his father, gets married, and even serves in the army during World War II before settling as an efficiency expert at a luggage company. When the company falls on hard times, a grown-up Christopher (Ewan McGregor) finds himself devoting his time to keeping it afloat, neglecting his wife, Evelyn (Hayley Atwell), and their daughter, Madeline (Bronte Carmichael), in the process. In the midst of his struggle to balance family and work responsibilities, things for Christopher Robin get even more complicated when an old friend stumbles back into the picture: the always lovable Winnie the Pooh (voiced by Jim Cummings).

If you’ve seen the second trailer for this film, then you’ve pretty much seen the gist of the story. The plot has a standard layout: we’ve got the theme of the over-working father who has no time for fun and silly things, the characters go in and out of different environments, the stuffy grown-up protagonist must venture back to his roots and rediscover his inner childlike spirit, blah, blah, blah. Just imagine the movie Hook but with Winnie the Pooh. From the very beginning, you can tell where the film is going and what it’s all amounting to.

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The characters’ likability make the paint-by-numbers aspect of the story easier to swallow. Pooh and his friends are wonderful as always. For one, the blend of practical and special effects is incredible. The crew actually walked stuffed animals around like marionettes then touched them up with CGI to add the expressions and extra movements. I’m glad they did it this way because it made the characters all the more alive. Having talents like Jim Cummings, Brad Garrett and Peter Capaldi lend their voices to these classic characters is a big plus. These are pitch perfect portrayals in my opinion. And seriously, I’ve been thinking of buying a stuffed Eeyore since seeing this. He’s the funniest part of the film!

The human characters give good performances as well. Ewan McGregor is very good, though something about his acting feels a bit off. I’m not sure how to explain it. It reminds me of acting I’d seen in Disney Junior shows I watched as a kid: soft but a little on the campy side. It’s noticeable, but not to the point where it derails his entire performance. Atwell and Carmichael are solid as well, and everyone works well off each other.

I wish the film looked as whimsical and lively as it feels. Director Marc Forster has a diverse filmography, with projects like Finding Neverland, Stranger than Fiction, and Quantum of Solace under his belt. So it was a toss-up in terms of what kind of style he’d apply to Christopher Robin. His shots are beautifully composed, but nothing about the cinematography pops. It’s dry and dreary. I figured it was a symbolic choice, and that it was supposed to be drab until Pooh and his friends appeared and ultimately brought color back into Christopher’s life. But I was wrong.

In the end, Christopher Robin is a cute, heartwarming family film that plays out exactly as you’d expect it would. But its heart is always in the right place. It’s great to see these characters again, and seeing them interact with a grown-up Christopher Robin makes even the youngest adult feeling old. That being said, I wouldn’t be surprised if kids get bored by this. The film does have a heavier lean on its adult themes and the environments aren’t as visually interesting. Nonetheless, Christopher Robin is a delightful excuse to return to the Hundred-Acre Wood.

 

Cosmic Grade- 3.6/5 Stars

 

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