One of the things our family has missed during the pandemic shut-downs is going to the movie theater. Thank goodness for the LIttle Lorraine Theater and their awesome family pack movies, where you can rent out the whole theater for your family--including popcorn and drinks. I highly recommend the experience! When we are not able to go to the theater in person, we browse the film offerings on various streaming services. We are always on the lookout for family movies that are suitable for our young grandchildren. Recently I saw “Christopher Robin,” a modern-day re-telling of the friendship between Christopher Robin and our favorite stuffed bear, Winnie the Pooh. If you or yours are looking for some family-friendly entertainment, here is my movie review.
FYI: “British author A.A. Milne published his first Winnie the Pooh story on Dec. 24, 1925 in the London Evening News; the Hundred-Acre Wood was based on Ashdown Forest near his home in East Sussex, and the name Winnie referenced a famous bear in the London zoo.”
These facts are important only in that the film, “Christopher Robin,” “bears” (see what I did there) a much closer resemblance to the original Milne drawings and writings than the Winnie the Pooh we have come to know through simple, fun, colorful animations.
Ewan McGregor stars as Christopher Robin, and he displays his enviable ability to seem grown up and child-like simultaneously. Hayley Atwell plays Robin’s wife and you may feel as if she has far greater talents than the role requires, I know I did. Bronte Carmichael plays the fairly un-gendered daughter who seems to represent all children with her unkempt hair and nondescript clothing, although her appearance takes a brighter turn toward the end of the film.
The direction wanders at an uneven pace and includes elements not important to the plot. The script is neither good nor bad. The story, perhaps like all the original WTP stories, is really for adults. Lessons are learned, family is brought back to the priority list, and homage is paid to the original cast of stuffed friends and the famous red balloon.
The balloon, which in some scenes is the only source of color in a sea of neutrals, represents childhood throughout; winding wherever the wind takes it, and gently pointing the way back to the wonders of youth when we spent time doing “nothing.”
While not exactly a spoiler alert (it is Winnie the Pooh, after all) it should be noted that the ending is happy, with our hero wearing a red sweater that matches his childhood muse. I note this because the movie is somewhat dark and dips down into depressing in some stretches.
The visual and emotional tones are colorless for much of the film, and instead of adding contrast and depth to the bright lessons learned, they come off as a drab and inhospitable background for the story. Nothing in this film is likely to scar your children, however, there are soft references to forcibly being separated from parents, parental death (it wouldn’t be a Disney film without this element,) war, and a troubled marriage.
The Pooh voice, as performed by Jim Cummings is unmistakable and the best part of the film. A gloomy Eeyore is well-voiced by Brad Garrett of Everybody Loves Raymond fame.
It is good that the voices are remarkable, as they must carry the show, as the animation is realistic and oddly uncomfortable. It is hard to suspend reality and connect on a child-like level with the talking animals when their stuffed bodies are articulated right down to individual hairs and the pupils of their eyes. Just weird, like a wildly detailed, realistic, possessed toy instead of a less distinct but lovable cartoon.
Christopher Robin is a story with a good moral, but misses the mark for both age groups. Children may find it somber and unrelated to the Winnie the Pooh they might recognize from cartoons, and adults may have trouble connecting with the minuscule amount of whimsy the film offers. Rather than making room in your heart for this new iteration of a beloved character, you may find that the movie leaves you hoping to retain your own memories from deep in the hundred acre wood. 2.5 Out Of 5 Stars.