Christopher Robin (2018)
Christopher Robin (2018)

Genre: Fairy Tale Running Time: 1 hr. 44 min.

Release Date: August 3rd, 2018 MPAA Rating: PG

Director: Marc Forster Actors: Ewan McGregor, Hayley Atwell, Bronte Carmichael, Mark Gatiss, Jim Cummings, Brad Garrett

 


 

A

s a young boy, Christopher Robin (Orton O’Brien) frequently visits his idiosyncratic group of stuffed-animal friends in the Hundred Acre Woods. But when he’s sent away to boarding school, he leaves behind Winnie the Pooh (Jim Cummings), Piglet (Nick Mohammed), Rabbit (Peter Capaldi), Eeyore (Brad Garrett), Owl (Toby Jones), and the rest of his beloved childhood companions. As the years pass and Christopher grows into adulthood, the tribulations and responsibilities of the era distance him further from his jubilant adolescence. Now toiling away as an efficiency manager at the struggling Winslow Luggage company in London, Robin’s (Ewan McGregor) life has become a series of endless work days, leaving him little time for his wife Evelyn (Hayley Atwell) and daughter Madeline (Bronte Carmichael).

When his family heads to his bucolic hometown in Sussex for the weekend, for a trip that he’s unable to attend due to unexpected employer demands, Robin is visited by an old friend he’d long since forgotten – Winnie the Pooh. Reluctantly accompanying the benevolent bear in a quest to find the other animals of the Hundred Acre Woods, Robin is soon reacquainted with the carefree adventures of his youth. With deadlines and ultimatums awaiting him back at Winslow, and his friends and family counting on him to find their missing loved ones, Christopher must decide what is most important in his life.

The basic premise resembles “Hook,” “Where the Wild Things Are,” “Mary Poppins,” and even “A Monster Calls” or “Pan’s Labyrinth.” Essentially, fantasy must be employed to help push characters through their dour realities. Unfortunately, this particular reality is terribly generic – and the solution is equally predictable. The biggest problem with “Christopher Robin” is a lack of creativity; it’s just not enough for Winnie the Pooh and his friends to invigorate their depressed pal, like Paddington or Ted might, especially when his predicament is so dreadfully average. Surely Robin could have had an affliction that went beyond a wearisome job and the familial stresses brought about from overwork.

For anyone unfamiliar with A.A. Milne’s creations, the setup must be hopelessly bizarre. There’s no explanation as to why these stuffed animals interact with Robin, and there’s certainly no emphasis on make-believe. Are hallucinations comforting his sorrows? Is he insane? Or is the post-WWII England in which he resides actually populated by talking toys? And why exactly is Pooh lazy and Eeyore sad? These various entities’ origins and habits may possess a nostalgia value for fans, but definitely not for newcomers.

To this point, Jim Cummings lends his voice once again to Pooh (and Tigger), which is a welcome familiarity (though several of the other voices are off by just enough to raise eyebrows). The initial appearances of the anthropomorphized cast, however, are a touch jarring. The playthings are well-worn, unusually fuzzy, and faded to the point that their colors don’t reflect the look from the Disney cartoons. They appear as an uncomfortable cross between Milne’s original depictions and Disney’s short subjects from the ‘60s. But Rabbit and Owl receive even odder updates, as they’re basically real (CG) animals that talk; they don’t look at all like animated inanimate objects.

“This can’t be happening!” As the film segues from battlefield explosions (Robin serves a stint in the military) to outright slapstick – with Pooh causing all sorts of disruptions in his attempt to convince Robin that nothing is more important than family – failures in cohesion and storytelling sensibilities abound. Comic misadventures save his career, which could be inconsequential considering how much his wife (a woman not striking enough, apparently, to take him away from his childhood fancies) shames him repeatedly for valuing money (stability, in his eyes) over spending time with his loved ones. After all, they have a cottage in the woods as well as their London home, so it’s possible they’re not strapped for cash.

Encouraging irresponsibility, Pooh’s mission entails a revelation about weighty obligations being extricable from maturity, promoting father/daughter communications, and occasionally concealing the fact that Robin’s imaginary friends aren’t chimerical visions. The film might have made more sense if it was indeed all a dream; wrapping up familial drama without resolving the existence of talking animals leaves things in a weird place, despite the disappointingly superficial relationships rediscovering harmony. It’s an interesting concept to make a live-action version of Winnie the Pooh, in line with Disney’s slew of remakes of their traditionally-animated masterpieces, but “Christopher Robin” just doesn’t have any depth or resonance; it’s a dull, unimaginative tromp through the whimsical world of the Hundred Acre Wood.

– The Massie Twins

  • 4/10