Review: Christopher Robin
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Hayley Atwell, and the voice talents of Brad Garrett, Jim Cummings, Peter Capaldi and Toby Jones
‘Doing nothing often leads to the very best kind of something.’ Winnie the Pooh
When A.A. Milne wrote stories about his son and stuffed animals, there is no way the celebrated author could have predicted that these characters would become the cultural phenomenon that would span generations. Then for his family members to become the centrepiece of books, plays and films must have been a surprise to all involved. Unlike the dark 2017 film Goodbye Christopher Robin which focussed on the life experience of Milne’s son, director Marc Forster (World War Z) looks to reimagine the life of the Christopher Robin of the children’s books. This new film asks what would happen if Christopher left the toy animals behind, experienced the realities of life outside the 100-acre wood and became an adult. Would Pooh play as formative of a role in the later years as he did in Chris’ childhood?
Opening during the farewell tea with his band of forever friends, Christopher Robin is heading into the real world of boarding school. This becomes the catalyst for his growth as an adult, as he experiences loss, war, marriage, parenting and the workplace, the imagined world of Sussex becomes a distant memory. Even though his wife and daughter yearn for more time with him, Chris (Ewan McGregor) chooses to put his career first and works through another weekend as his family heads off to the legendary cottage.
While he works on his own in London, by a mysterious twist of fate, Winnie the Pooh (voiced by Jim Cummings) shows up to ask for help and ultimately to save the businessman from himself. Despite the pressures of the office, the business executive chooses to take the bear back to the wood and find all of his old friends. During his search for these magical animals, Chris discovers something about himself in the process as the world of imagination and realty come together. With the help of Pooh, Eeyore, Tigger, Piglet and his family he does all that he can to save his job, the company and his marriage.
For those who have read through the wanderings of the classic tales of the little boy and his bear, it is hard to look past the profoundly philosophical narrative and the meandering feel of their journey together. Winnie the Pooh does not convey a world of action, but has more of a calming effect on the soul. This element makes it still resonate throughout the years and gives it a unique place in the world of children’s literature. Marc Forster manages to capture this element of the A.A. Milne’s stories, for better or worse. The combination of the animated creatures and the real world they inhabit is seamless. The rich characters and the nature of gaining wisdom from a bear that has a head full of fluff permeate the film. Which may initially cause some tension for modern audiences and cause them to adjust their expectations of this fantasy adventure. The special effects and winsome nature of all of the characters will lead to more of a fanciful response than one of high-packed adventure.
The challenge for parents who go to see this film is realising that this film is more for them than it may be for children raised on Pixar films and Star Wars. The storyline is one for overworked and materialistic family members who need to be reminded of what is essential in life and how it is good to get in touch with their inner-child. The message is worthwhile and engaging, but maybe a bit too much for the younger viewers. There is no objectionable material, but ultimately this is a children’s story for adults. Bearing that in mind, Christopher Robin is a joyful ride for older children to enjoy with their family.