In a summer filled with popcorn fare, deadly snapping fingers, and endless fart jokes, Christopher Robin is exactly “where it needs to be.” However, that may prove too close for comfort, or too far away, depending on your age…
Your life is happening now…
Cynics will look past this picture in favor of December’s Mary Poppins Returns. Or perhaps they’ll fondly remember Paddington or even Robin William’s in Hook. Purists may prefer the books or even Disney’s animated classics. But this dad needed THIS version of Pooh; holding up a mirror (“A few wrinkles…”) for a reminder that life will come to me (if I let it), and that I, like many modern adults, often miss the best moments in a mad dash toward “success.”
In releases, Disney described the movie too simply:
“In the heartwarming live action adventure ‘Disney’s Christopher Robin,’ the young boy who embarked on countless adventures in the Hundred Acre Wood with his band of spirited and lovable stuffed animals, has grown up and lost his way. Now it is up to his childhood friends to venture into our world and help Christopher Robin remember the loving and playful boy who is still inside.”
This film is far more important — at least it should be (particularly to parents) — than the succinct synopsis may belie.
As moviegoers watch the now grown up Christopher Robin (Ewan McGregor) toil fruitlessly in post-World War II London, caught between finding a way to save the jobs at workers at his company and mending the growing rift between he and his family, we’re meant to see ourselves.
Frankly, the view made me feel guilty…
The jaded Christopher is a bit of a martinet — both with his workers and his daughter — at times aping the condescending anecdotes fed to him by his wealthy boss (born with a silver spoon, and prone to passing off his work on Robin).
Of course, there would be no story if our avatar was swimming easily through life, minus any challenges. And we see and experience many a challenge, as Christopher’s growing frustration is reflected back at him by his daughter Madeline (a wonderful Bronte Carmichael) and his wife Evelyn (one of my favorites-ever on screen, Hayley Atwell), often in the most heartrendingly-polite British parlance.
Atwell’s finest moment comes when Evelyn confronts Christopher, saying, “Your life is happening now, right in front of you…”
Unfortunately, Agent Carter doesn’t have enough to do here, what with Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, and Tigger providing the majority of the minor heroics.
What to do? What to do?
More than the excellent CGI of the classic characters, it’s McGregor who makes the whole thing believable and worthwhile.
Through Christopher Robin’s eyes, we see so many of the obstacles modern adults put in front of ourselves as we negotiate the difference between what we want, and what we need. There is one sequence, shared with Brad Garrett’s Eeyore — the downer donkey — which deserves much more attention than it will get, as Christopher realizes who the real “monster” in the hundred-acre wood is, and sets out to confront the beast.
As a result, and most likely to the chagrin of Walt Disney Studios, I came away believing that this was a movie that was best intended for adults; that there was an extra gear in the story which needed some oil, and less squeaky plot points.
And while this movie certainly had me questioning why I often sound too much like the “bad” version of Christopher Robin, the film — because of it’s crowd-pleasing, but disappointingly convenient ending — probably won’t challenge most adult viewers as much as it may have.
Although my 6 and 8-year-olds enjoyed much of the adventure , I fear the film’s message might go over the head of the youngsters merely excited to see Winnie-the-Pooh and Tigger (too) causing havoc in postwar London.
Think. Think. Think.
Beyond that story-based critique, I also fear that those expecting a Paddington-like romp, will be overwhelmed by the sheer emotion inherent to the tale; particularly as we contemplate how far we’ve strayed from our childhood hopes and dreams.
As I watched McGregor’s face fill with regret for having betrayed the best intentions of his boyhood self, I was taken aback and embarrassed, and tears welled up in my eyes several times
However, and despite the melancholy, the movie remains worthy of a “feel-good” moniker, even as it makes you work for the satisfaction.
In the end, Christopher Robin earns a chance to make amends (thanks to Pooh). Good Lord willing, we may all be as lucky.
Hint: Stay for the credits; an additional scene is worth the price of admission.