Review: Disney’s Christopher Robin
Perhaps because the subject is trending in recent years, A.A. Milne’s life and the creation of Winnie the Pooh has taken Hollywood creatives by storm. Last year we saw the release of Goodbye, Christopher Robin, which explored the lives of Milne and his family and how his work came to negatively impact his son throughout his life. That tale is definitely a darker tale not meant for the eyes of Disney viewers. However, this has not stopped Disney from releasing its own vision in their film, Christopher Robin.
This film is definitely more Mary Poppins and Paddington in execution, which presents the theme of returning to one’s roots. In this case, the roots are the freedom and creativity that childhood playtime brings. The theming of the film is simple and sound while the execution is done well, but a bit predictable in landing.
The film starts off slowly as the audience is introduced to the titular Christopher Robin, who I will be referring to as CR for the remainder of this review when discussing the character. The introduction is done in beautifully rendered storybook pieces, but it does last a bit long while introducing us to the most important moments of CR’s life. We see the transition from the whimsical carefree boy that we are familiar with to the business savvy, war-weary adult we end up with. There could have been a way to cut this down for time so it conveyed what was needed in a shorter duration.
The audience gets the idea pretty quickly when meeting the adult CR. He is married to the love of his life Evelyn (played by a horribly underused Hayley Atwell) and works immensely long hours that keep him away from his wife and his daughter (played by Bronte Carmichael). When presented with the dilemma of having to cut his workforce because of his company’s struggles with sales, he makes the decision to choose work over a vacation with his family. This presents the conflict that really starts to propell the film forward. That and the arrival of Winnie the Pooh when CR most desperately needs him.
Pooh comes to find CR when he wakes up one morning to find all of his friends missing. This prompts Pooh to go and find CR to help find his friends. As you would expect, there is a lot of silly back and forth as the oh-so-serious CR argues with the more whimsical, lackadaisical Pooh. When this duo was together, it honestly made for one of the best parts of the movie. However, it also eventually led to one of the darkest parts of the film.
There is a certain segment of the film that I think really might not be suited for younger children. When CR eventually returns to the Hundred Acre Woods with Pooh, it is dark and spooky. Fog creates a very mysterious, foreboding effect. One can easily derive the meaning from this particular mood setting, especially now that CR has arrived. Then there is the mentioning of the Heffalump and Woozles, which are what Winnie the Pooh and his friends most fear. The connection to depression and misery to these foreboding creatures was not lost to me while watching the film. And, without spoiling this sequence, I greatly worried for any younger kids who would end up watching the film.
The real fun for kids picks up towards the last third of the film when CR has to go back to the office for a meeting but leaves his important papers behind. This prompts Winnie the Pooh and his gang to seek out CR’s daughter to try to get these papers back to him. This is where we really get to see the voice acting from Pooh and his friends really be utilized. I won’t spoil too much for you, but this is the part where it really starts to feel like a typical live-action family friendly film.
As a movie, Christopher Robin works pretty decently overall. From the performances provided by both the live-action cast and the vocal cast to the deft handling of the humor by Ewan McGregor and the supporting cast. The voice cast did amazing, with Winnie the Pooh (Jim Cummings), Eeyore (Brad Garrett), Tigger (also Cummings), Piglet (Nick Mohammed) and Rabbit (Peter Capaldi) stealing the show whenever they were on screen. .A lot of my favorite scenes were between McGregor’s Robin and Cummings’s Pooh and their back and forth conversations. And I don’t think I have ever personally related to stuffed animals more than I did when Eeyore or Pooh would speak. That says more about me than anything.
However, the thing that struck me as the film came to a close was whether or not it would do well at the box office. As an adult, I found CR’s dilemma immensely relatable. He is stuck between what he has to do according to society versus what he wants to do, which is to hang out with his family and actually relax for once in his life. And when Pooh comes into his life again, he is forced to confront the person he has become now that he’s tossed aside his childhood. Taking into account these themes and ideas, I wasn’t 100% sold on whether or not kids would actually enjoy this film because of its slow start and more adult themes.
All in all, Disney’s Christopher Robin was a film that I would definitely recommend. Perhaps take note of the PG rating and bring children you think might be of the right age range for that rating.
Christopher Robin will be released in theaters on August 3rd.