So… HOOK, but in the world of Winnie-the-Pooh?
Unlike a lot of kids, I didn’t exactly grow up with Winnie-the-Pooh. I won’t say that I don’t know the characters and their personalities, but it wasn’t something that I regularly watched, nor have I ever read the original novels. Kind of sad, when I think about it, but I’ve always had a fascination with the character.
The story looks like it’s about Christopher Robin, having grown up into an adult with a family of his own. His job is making him stay home on the eve of a family vacation and do something that might cost the jobs of several people in the company. In his turmoil, Pooh, Tigger, and all of Christopher’s childhood animal friends visit him and help him through his troubled times.
Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Ewan McGregor (BEAUTY AND THE BEAST , MILES AHEAD , and the upcoming DOCTOR SLEEP ), and the voice talents of Jim Cummings (THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG , and upcoming video game KINGDOM HEARTS III ), Brad Garrett (TMNT 2 , TANGLED , and the upcoming GLORIA ), Toby Jones (JURASSIC WORLD 2 , ATOMIC BLONDE , ANTHROPOID , HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINJAY 2 , and upcoming films OUT OF BLUE  and THE LAST THING HE WANTED ), and Nick Mohammed (THE SENSE OF AN ENDING , BRIDGET JONES’S BABY , THE MARTIAN , and upcoming films THE NUTCRACKER AND THE FOUR REALMS  and THE KID WHO WOULD BE KING ). In support, we have Hayley Atwell (ANT-MAN ) and Bronte Carmichael (ON CHESIL BEACH  and DARKEST HOUR ).
Now for the crew. Directing, we have Marc Forster, known for WORLD WAR Z (2013) and STRANGER THAN FICTION (2006). Co-writing the screenplay, making for a red flag total of three writers, we have Alex Ross Perry (NOSTALGIA , and the upcoming HER SMELL ), Tom McCarthy (SPOTLIGHT , and the upcoming THE NUTCRACKER AND THE FOUR REALMS), and Allison Schroeder (HIDDEN FIGURES ). Co-composing the score are Jon Brion (LADY BIRD , TRAINWRECK , PARANORMAN , and upcoming films SINK OR SWIM  and ISN’T IT ROMANTIC ) and Geoff Zonelli (TRAFFIK , PIRATES 5 , and upcoming films THE INTRUDER  and 10 LIVES ). The cinematographer is Matthias Koenigswieser, known for stuff I’ve not seen or heard of. Finally, the editor is Matt Chesse, known for MONEY MONSTER (2016).
Overall, this movie looks cute enough. I can’t be too sure, but I’m just waiting for the immature humor that hasn’t been revealed to rear its ugly head. But maybe I’m just a cynic who thinks the worst of live-action Disney films. I’m sure the movie’s harmless and just fine.
This is my honest opinion of: CHRISTOPHER ROBIN
Years ago, Winnie the Pooh (Jim Cummings) and his friends said goodbye to Christopher Robin (Orton O’Brien) as he was off to go to boarding school. The world of the Hundred Acre Wood had almost completely left Christopher’s mind in place of the real world as an adult (Ewan McGregor), where he married Evelyn (Hayley Atwell) and eventually has a daughter, Madeline (Bronte Carmichael). Presently, Christopher works for a luggage company, Winslow Luggages, but it’s about to lay off twenty percent of its employees, and unless Christopher can figure out how to create a suitcase that will decrease company costs, he’s going to have to lay off the employees. This forces Christopher to be away from his family, who go on vacation to his childhood country home without him so he can work. Meanwhile, Pooh wakes up one morning and the Hundred Acre Wood is foggier than usual. He searches for his friends, but for whatever reason, can’t find them. Concerned for his friends’ safety, he ventures to the real world for Christopher Robin for help.
I won’t say it’s a perfect film, but I do say that this is one of Disney’s finer live-action films about an established animated world. I will also admit that it’s likely that this film will receive hate for basically being HOOK.
Here’s the thing. Despite the obvious silly acting from MeGregor, the movie is surprisingly mature. While the movie certainly taps into the cliché of a workaholic father, Christopher is never mean-spirited about it, unlike HOOK’s Peter. Christopher does legitimately want to stay and be with his family, but the pressures of his work keep him at home to find a way to save everyone’s jobs. His problems aren’t of his own doing and anyone can understand why he’s been a bit neglectful. Also, because as a kid, his father passed away, forcing him to grow up faster, as well as serving in World War II for a time, a heavy-dose of real life shaped him into the person he became. While he never lost his kind nature, he lost all sense of balance between work and fun.
I can see someone saying that the “serving in World War II” bit may have been a little too dark to add to this movie, as it’s… you know, Winnie the Pooh, but I actually think it’s a nice little touch. For those of you that don’t know, the original author of the Winnie the Pooh books was Alan Alexander “A.A.” Milne, who was the subject matter to wonderful biopic, GOODBYE CHRISTOPHER ROBIN (2017), and it’s mentioned that Milne served in the British army in World War I, and his son Christopher Robin “C.R.” Milne would eventually serve in World War II, though as a sapper, and not a grunt soldier on the battlefield as depicted in this movie. Were I to hazard a guess, this detail was added as a sort of tribute, or homage to the real man who inspired the character.
I definitely appreciate how this movie isn’t actually all that focused on comedy. It’s not a drama, per se, but the comedy is used sparingly. While the movie’s not a overly dramatic, or overly comedic, there is a laid back kind of likability to it. A tender sweetness that I kind of adore. Pooh is a simplistic character who has made his way into a world of complexity, but there’s something about how he questions everything and how it all works, like he’s really trying to understand what’s important, and in so doing, making Christopher question what’s really important. I think one of my favorite dramatic moments is when Christopher and Pooh are back in the Hundred Acre Wood and Christopher explains why he ended up the way he did and that he had to let go of his childhood, and Pooh simply asks, “Did you let me go?” to which Christopher replied, “I suppose I did.” It’s a really somber and emotional delivery; a moment with great acting from McGregor that any adult can relate to. That sadness of letting go of the simplistic times of our childhood that made us happy, whether we wanted to or not.
But make no mistake, this movie has some brilliant comedy when it crops up. One of my favorite lines is, “You can’t just take a teddy bear from a grown man!” Oh, and anything with Eeyore (Brad Garrett) absolutely slayed me. “It’s kind of you to kidnap me.” “Now it has a weapon.” I swear, Eeyore is my new spirit animal.
However, the movie is not perfect and I do have an issue that I would like to address.
While I think this movie is more aimed at adults than kids, lets face it, kids will be seeing this movie. It might be easy for them to get behind Pooh and the other talking animals, but the crux of the story is the very adult idea of making cheaper luggage or else twenty percent of the workforce will be laid off. When you throw in percentages, kids might lose focus. I feel like there was a simpler way to explain this. Not that it’s complicated, but I feel like there was a missed opportunity here. The message for adults is to balance work and play, or else you miss out on really getting to know your kids and having fun with them, and the message to kids is to understand that parents work for a reason. The point I’m trying to make is that neither lesson feels like it’s particularly leaned on as much as it could have been and it’s more one-sided. I might even be jumping to conclusions about the lesson for kids, but that is what I took away from the movie because the final act is about Madeline trying to return her father’s important documents to him, knowing full well how important they are. When did that realization come to her, and why does she care, especially considering that he literally shows up just to leave again? It barely makes sense.
Also, this is about the only movie I’ve ever seen that features a persistently annoying neighbor that is utterly useless. Already I have problems with this trope in movies, but at least there’s some kind of resolution to them. Here, there isn’t one. Christopher never takes his neighbor up on his offer to play cards with him. It’s presented, kills a minute or two, and leaves the story forever.
Overall, I like this movie and think it’s pretty good for both adults and children. While the message may be a little messy and not well-supported by the rest of the film, or goes far enough with its own ideas, this is still a wonderful little gem. It has a lot of heart, and though I can’t remember if I cried, I certainly remember getting emotional. So be ready for that. It’s got drama, it’s got humor, it’s a little bit of everything. I fully endorse this movie. Maybe there’s no need to rush out to see it, but I think it’s worth seeing in theaters. A silly, yet surprisingly mature movie with a heart as big as Winnie the Pooh.
My honest rating for CHRISTOPHER ROBIN: 4/5
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