Christopher Robin Review: A Little Honey Goes a Long Way
Christopher Robin Review: A new take on Winnie the Pooh offers a sweet message provided by the bankably charming Ewan McGregor.
There are two distinctly different ways you can watch Christopher Robin.
The first is a film about a man losing himself day by day as his priorities continue to move in the wrong direction. It’s a sweet and charming film with a message that is about as subtle as a brick to the face. The other is that it’s about a middle-aged man slowly going insane as he is pursued through his life by a destructive, imaginary bear that will do anything to chase that sugar high.
Given that it’s Disney it’s probably the sweet option rather than then honey smacked version, but it really comes down to how familiar you are with Winnie the Pooh.
Given Pooh’s cultural significance, you probably know something about the character even if you aren’t necessarily a fan. Pooh was hugely popular for decades. That popularity has waned a bit as cartoons went from adorable talking animals to transforming robots that shoot stuff to whatever the kids are into these days, but it’s still a marketable name.
And if you do remember fondly the character, then you probably know that Christopher Robin is actually a character in the series, the adorable scamp that palled around with the stuffed animal gang. If you didn’t know that, then things in director Marc Foster’s Christopher Robin get weird, fast.
Christopher Robin has a message to deliver, and it isn’t shy about it. It’s a film meant for kids and adults, but each group will probably take something different away. For the young ‘uns, it’s a story about an older guy re-learning lessons he forgot; for the older set, it’s about living life to its fullest. You’ll figure out which side you’re on pretty quickly. And if you miss it the first time it’s spelled out for you, you’ll catch it one of the 15 other times.
Christopher Robin picks up years after the original Pooh stories with the former childhood protagonist, Christopher Robin (Ewan McGregor), now all growns up. He is older and more world-weary, but not necessarily wiser. He survived a bloody war and went on to marry his amazingly supportive wife Evelyn (Hayley Atwell), and father his remarkable daughter Madeline (Bronte Carmichael).
But Christopher’s life is slipping away from him, and a crappy job at a crappy company with a crappy boss (Mark Gatiss) is eating up his life and soul. Each day he is losing himself more and more, and life is flying past him. But when his old friend Winnie the Pooh (voiced by Jim Cummings) seeks him out for help, Christopher is forced to confront his reality by taking a step into the unreal.
Through a combination of live-action and fairly amazing CGI, the entire Pooh gang pops up as Christopher returns to his childhood home. The suicidal Eeyore (Brad Garrett), the perpetually methed out Tigger (Cummings), the too-adorable-to-eat Piglet (Nick Mohammed), the hearing-centric Rabbit (Peter Capaldi), and all the rest show up to be innocent and adorable.
And speaking of innocent and adorable, this film works primarily because McGregor is a great choice for the role. He can easily pivot between the guy that is stressing over budget cuts and the guy that is fighting imaginary creatures with an umbrella-sword. It’s also not easy to show a father accidentally treating his aggressively cute daughter like crap and still seem sympathetic, but McGregor manages it.
The rest of the human characters are just sort of adult plot moppets, and we are certainly living in the darkest timeline when Hayley Atwell goes from amazing starring roles to a minor character whose job is to remind her husband that he doesn’t laugh enough anymore. She should be fighting Skrull and righting wrongs, not just smiling and being pretty. It’s a waste of talent and potential and a missing element in the story of a dude whose biggest problem is whether or not he should quit his job.
The message is also heavy-handed – and not a little, a whole lot. And it’s not like other Disney movies haven’t laid it on thick, but from the first moment Christopher Robin is leading to a very obvious and predictable point, and it takes its time getting there. It’s single-minded and driven, and while it’s sweet and charming, it also feels a little bit like going through the very predictable motions.
Still, it’s nice to take a break from everything being dark and brooding and see something that is genuinely lighthearted. We’ll probably get a gritty reboot one day where Christopher is a smack addict and sells Pooh into a life of slavery, but for now, Christopher Robin is a refreshing break from the norm, featuring a stellar (if partially underused) cast, and some genuinely funny moments. See it, forget it, move on.
Christopher Robin Review Conclusion
If you’re a fan of Pooh, Christopher Robin is a nice re-examination of the franchise that carries the innocence of the property forward. McGregor carries this movie with ease, displaying all the charisma that makes him the type of actor you want to watch but also wouldn’t mind grabbing a beer with or, I don’t know, taking a motorcycle trip across the northern hemisphere.
The beat-you-over-the-head message is a little overwhelming and it dominates the film so much that it robs a little of the spontaneity and there’s not really much beyond that, but it’s a sweet and fun movie with good humor and innocence that is comforting. Just make sure you know who Christopher Robin is or you might think you’re watching a descent into madness.
Christopher Robin is rated PG with a running time for 104 minutes.