In 1926, A.A. Milne published his first collection of stories about Christopher Robin, Winnie the Pooh and his friends. 92 years later the characters are still so relevant they are being featured in a major studio production. These creations are timeless. Too bad their latest movie, Christopher Robin, is such a letdown. It certainly has its moments but, while the characters have all of their charm intact, the story is no fun. It was great seeing them on the big screen again (in live action no less!). I just wish the focus was on Pooh, Piglet, Tigger, Eeyore, Rabbit, Owl, Kanga and Roo instead of a stressed out, adult Christopher Robin.
Ewan McGregor stars as Christopher, who works in the efficiency department of a luggage company. He is married with a young daughter, but neglects his family for his job. One day, Pooh is unable to find his neighbors and he wanders through a door that takes him directly outside Christopher Robin’s house in London. That sets up a low-key adventure in which Christopher Robin helps Pooh look for his friends while they help him reconnect with his childhood.
I guess there is nothing inherently wrong with this story. Unfortunately, the screenplay (by Alex Ross Perry, Tom McCarthy and Allison Schroeder) made its protagonist into a fairly unlikable person and keeps the lovable creatures from the Hundred Acre Wood off screen for far too much of the movie’s running time (it is only 99 minutes (plus a mid-credits scene), though it feels longer). This really is about its title character and that seems like a major misstep right from the start.
I did mostly enjoy the stuff that takes place in the woods. The opening, which breezes through some of Milne’s classic Pooh tales, is a cute setup. Then things bog down for a bit with way too much of the problems at the luggage company. Once he returns to his childhood home, there are a few good scenes of him interacting with his old playmates. But Christopher Robin keeps throwing us back into adulthood. The story is another one of those concoctions about how grownups need to embrace their inner child in order to have a happy life. Sadly, the film containing it does not do that nearly enough.
Thankfully, Christopher Robin’s friends are still as adorable as ever (now rendered in computer animation that strikes an awkward balance between children’s toys and cartoons). While I may have several issues with Christopher Robin overall, it definitely got Winnie the Pooh and his pals right. They are exactly how I remember them from when I was a kid. Pooh remains one of the most endearing (as well as enduring) characters in any form of entertainment. Eeyore, depressed as always and brilliantly voiced by Brad Garrett, is given some of the best lines. Tigger is still all unrestrained, bouncy energy. The others do not get as many opportunities to shine, but they each get at least a tiny moment or two. There is absolutely enough of them to make me sincerely disappointed there was not more.
Christopher Robin is an attempt to bring Winnie the Pooh into the real world with very uneven results. The parts with him in his element are enjoyable family entertainment. The rest of the movie is not. Though I would have preferred it if the filmmakers had been able to come up with a premise that would not have taken these stories so far away from the Hundred Acre Wood (both literally and in terms of tone), they captured that world quite well. Hopefully, if they make a sequel, the silly old bear will not be pushed to the side in favor of his boring human friend.
3 out of 5
Ewan McGregor as Christopher Robin
Hayley Atwell as Evelyn Robin
Bronte Carmichael as Madeline Robin
Jim Cummings as voice of Winnie the Pooh, Tigger
Brad Garrett as Eeyore
Nick Mohammed as Piglet
Peter Capaldi as Rabbit
Sophie Okonedo as Kanga
Sara Sheen as Roo
Toby Jones as Owl
Directed by Marc Forster
Screenplay by Alex Ross Perry, Tom McCarthy and Allison Schroeder