Created by A.A. Milne in 1926, Winnie the Pooh and the other characters that inhabit The Hundred Acre Wood are a staple of childhoods around the world. These characters became cemented as both childhood constants and icons when Disney purchased them in 1961. Since then, Milne’s creations have shown up on just about any and every product around. Beyond that though, the residents of The Hundred Acre Wood have crossed over into all entertainment mediums. My personal favorite is the live-action TV series, Welcome to Pooh Corner (1983-1986). An odd show in which actors in costumes played the characters, and one which I often watched in reruns on The Disney Channel as a child. However, I can’t say that I’ve seen all 22 feature films in which the characters have appeared.
The latest of these films is the mixed live-action and animation theatrical release, Christopher Robin. The titular Christopher Robin (Ewan McGregor) is all grown-up; having long-since left The Hundred Acre Wood behind. These days, he has a wife, Evelyn (Hayley Atwell) and a young daughter, Madeline (Bronte Carmichael); as well as a demanding career. Unfortunately, though, Christopher Robin’s priorities are mismanaged as he puts his work ahead of everything else. Thus, he doesn’t spend time with his family. Much-less does he utilize his imagination or creativity. Then one day, Christopher Robin’s childhood friend, Winnie the Pooh (voiced by Jim Cummings) comes back into his life; telling Christopher that he can’t find their friends. Together Christopher Robin and Winnie the Pooh wander back into The Hundred Acre Wood to reunite with Tigger (also voiced by Jim Cummings), Eeyore (voiced by Brad Garrett), Piglet (voiced by Nick Mohammed), Rabbit (voiced by Peter Capaldi), Kanga (voiced by Sophie Okonedo), Roo (voiced by Sara Sheen), and Owl (voiced by Toby Jones).
I hate to be this reviewer, but I must point-out the pink Heffalump in the room. That being, Christopher Robin is Disney’s latest attempt to cash in on audience nostalgia. While one could argue that The House of Mouse has been doing such a thing forever; harnessing nostalgia for profit is now an industry-wide trend. Disney’s embraced this trend is by doing live-action remakes of their animated classics: Cinderella (2015), The Jungle Book (2016), Pete’s Dragon (2016) and Beauty and the Beast (2017). These live-action remakes have paid-off for the studio, and they show no sign of ceasing the trend.
Next year alone live-action updates of Dumbo, Aladdin, The Lion King, and Mulan are scheduled to be released. Nostalgia-driven movies, Disney-based or otherwise, are not going anywhere. If anything, such pictures are Hollywood’s current fuel. Therefore, some of this movies are going to be blatant cash-grabs; while others will have artistic and entertainment value. Thankfully, I’m pleased to report that Christopher Robin is in the latter category!
Sure, the film in review uses nostalgia. However, it does so to tell a new story. Christopher Robin presents a narrative that’s in the vein of Hook (1991); taking the adult-protagonist angle on familiar characters. In doing so, the movie manages to connect with both adults and kids in different ways. A child will look at Christopher Robin as a new story featuring characters they love. Whereas, adults will most likely find the film to be a delightful reversion to their childhood. Either way, I assure you that this movie will pull on your honey-drenched heartstrings.
The movie is also exceptionally well-made, and I feel that director Marc Forster was the perfect choice to helm this picture. Forster has had a versatile, albeit, mixed-bag of a filmography. With Christopher Robin, the director channels the same kind of childlike wonder he did with Finding Neverland (2004). No doubt, the childlike spirit is a large part of what makes Christopher Robin a success.
And if you’re worried about not being able to get invested in this picture due to the new, and initially odd visual take on Pooh and his pals, don’t be. Like many of you, I also balked slightly at seeing the 21st-century animation takes on these characters. However, the animation style entirely works in the context of this film. After a few minutes, your eyes will adjust with no problem. Thus, allowing you to forget the fact that you initially thought your favorite stuffed animals looked creepy.
Of course, it helps that this movie is perfectly-casted. As a result, every actor, be it on camera or in voice only, enhance one another. Even better, the blending of live action and computer-animated characters are the best I’ve seen on film thus far. Unlike filmic mixes in the past, you can barely see the threads here, if at all. I can easily say that the only flaw this has is arguably its story. Heck, I can only even consider the narrative a fault because you know where it’s going. For that reason, the movie’s pace does occasionally drag.
While this movie may not replace Welcome to Pooh Corner as my favorite interpretation of this material, it’s up there. Moreover, I think that Christopher Robin is a movie audiences need right now. Frankly, the world can be a pretty scary and overwhelming place these days. Therefore, it’s easy to forget about the important and good things in life. Be it the people we care for or creativity and imagination, this picture reminds us to take stock of such. A reminder which I think we could all use at the moment. In closing, I suggest you make a trip with Christopher Robin to The Hundred Acre Wood. Rest assured, you will not regret it.
CHRISTOPHER ROBIN IS IN THEATERS NOW!