When I heard that Disney was gonna make a live-action version of Winnie-the-Pooh with a grown-up Christopher Robin, I was a bit skeptical. Was that something anybody wanted to see? Didn’t it sound a bit too much like Hook? Would it be good? Then Ewan McGregor was cast as Christopher Robin and I was intrigued. Then the first teaser trailer came out and it looked somewhat generic, but still really cute. Then the second trailer came out and I was totally sold. Every piece of promotional material since then has just made me more and more interested in and excited about the movie. The big question is: is the movie actually good? The short answer is: yeah, it’s alright. Written by Alex Ross Perry, Tom McCarthy, and Allison Schroeder (from a story by Greg Brooker and Mark Steven Johnson) and directed by Marc Foster, Christopher Robin tells the story of a grown-up Christopher Robin (played by Ewan McGregor) as he deals with work and familial problems.
In the heatwarming live action adventure “Disney’s Christopher Robin,” the young boy who loved embarking on adventures in the Hundred Acre Wood with a band of spirited and loveable stuffed animals, has grown up and lost his way. Now it is up to his childhood friends to venture into our world and help Christopher Robin remember the loving and playful boy who is still inside.
Christopher Robin is essentially a sequel to Disney’s previous Winnie-the-Pooh stories, featuring a grown-up Christopher Robin struggling with adult problems and being visited by Pooh (and friends) many years after leaving his adventures in the Hundred Acre Woods behind. It’s not a particularly complex setup nor is the movie particularly complex. Like many movies made in similar veins, Christopher Robin is a story about a man rediscovering his inner child so that he can be the kind of father that his child deserves. We all joked about how the premise of Christopher Robin seemed a lot like the premise of Hook, and to be totally honest, that joke wasn’t really all that far off. That’s not a bad thing, though.
Nobody should go into this movie expecting some cinematic masterpiece; that’s not what Christopher Robin is trying to be. It’s just trying to be a lighthearted reminder of the importance of maintaining a connection with one’s inner child. In that sense, Christopher Robin is a wild success. It’s super cute and will genuinely make you feel good while you’re watching it. It’s the perfect movie to escape from the outside world with. The unfortunate thing, though, is that the generic aspects of the plot make the movie a bit forgettable. It doesn’t really do anything to make it stand out from any other film that features a similar plot – aside from the inclusion of characters like Winnie-the-Pooh, Eeyore, Piglet, Tigger, etc. Again, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing; this film doesn’t have lofty ambitions, but it does make it a bit disappointing that it’s so forgettable.
The plot is super predictable. It plays out exactly like you’d expect it to. The thing that makes this movie fun, however, is the same thing that’s always made the Winnie-the-Pooh stories fun: the characters. Winnie-the-Pooh (Jim Cummings) is every bit as adorable, sweet, and clueless as you’d want him to be. This movie perfectly captures the spirit of all these characters that so many people love, both in the writing of the characters and in the vocal performances from the actors (some of which have voiced these characters before, some of which haven’t). Winnie-the-Pooh has the biggest role of any of the characters (besides Christopher Robin) and Jim Cummings shines, as always. Surprisingly, Eeyore (Brad Garrett) probably has the next biggest role in the film and Brad Garrett, having voiced Eeyore only in some video games twenty years ago, wows as Eeyore. He delivers a performance that isn’t just an imitation of those who have previously voiced Eeyore, but one that is full of nuance and emotion. Piglet (Nick Mohammed) and Tigger (Jim Cummings) are the next biggest roles, but they feature in the movie the less than Pooh and Eeyore, but more than Rabbit (Peter Capaldi), Owl (Toby Jones), Kanga (Sophie Okonedo), and Roo (Sara Sheen). All the voice actors do great jobs, even if there isn’t much asked of them, and they’re easily the brightest parts of this film.
As for the human characters, Ewan McGregor is utterly superb as Christopher Robin. He does a perfect job at balancing the darker aspects of Christopher’s personality – he is a veteran of World War II in this film, after all – with the more childlike glee. The only downside to his performance is that you can tell he’s just itching to let loose and free his inner child up until the point he actually does so. You never quite buy that he doesn’t wanna just drop everything and play with Pooh, though that’s what the movie is trying to sell you. That being said, Ewan does still portray Christopher with a level of nuance and honesty that does enough to keep you on board with the premise of the film even though you don’t quite believe he doesn’t want to play. There’s a great scene where he just totally loses his cool with Pooh – it’s actually a bit brutal for a Winnie-the-Pooh movie – and Ewan utterly shines in that moment. It’s in that scene where he shows just how good an actor he is; his words and his tone of voice say one thing, but then his face says another and you can see the regret in his eyes when he realizes the damage he’s caused. As for Christopher’s family, Hayley Atwell and Bronte Carmichael do serviceable jobs as Evelyn and Madeline, but the script never demands anything of them. Evelyn is the typical wife who’s frustrated that her husband is spending all of his time with work instead of with his family and Madeline is the typical kid who just wishes her father would let loose and have fun. Both actresses do a swell job, but the script just underutilizes them. They disappear from the entire movie for more than an hour and when they finally reappear, it feels more like a tacked-on epilogue than a part of the same film we’d been watching for the previous hour, even though the big moral of the story happens in the last twenty minutes. I wish Madeline had been able to be in more of the movie ( like Peter’s kids were in Hook). If Madeline could’ve somehow been involved with what was going on with the Hundred Acre Woods gang, it might have made the ending of the film feel more a part of the story than it ultimately does.
All in all, Christopher Robin is an enjoyable movie. It’s a nostalgic trip down memory lane with a bunch of characters that we all know and love. The plot is simplistic and forgettable, but that’s not really the point of the movie. All Christopher Robin is trying to be is a visit with some old friends, and in that sense, it delivers everything you want. All the characters are exactly as we remember them and they hit all the beats you’d want them to hit. Ewan McGregor is wonderful as Christopher Robin and it’s always a joy to see him having such fun on screen. The score (composed by Jon Brion and Geoff Zanelli) really works in the film’s favor, incorporating melodies from famous Winnie-the-Pooh songs alongside new material for a soundtrack that feels suitably emotional and whimsical. Marc Forster’s directing is really strong and the cinematography (by Matthias Koenigswieser) makes the Hundred Acre Wood look better than ever. The CGI on all the animals is really beautiful; you never doubt that any of them are actually there with Christopher Robin; they just feel real, down to the fluff of their fur. It’s genuinely a cute and enjoyable movie and if you turn off your cynicism for a while, you’ll enjoy yourself. It’s nothing special, just another visit to the Hundred Acre Woods – but sometimes that’s just what the doctor ordered. After all, doing nothing often leads to the best something.
4 out of 5 wands.