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« Showbiz History: The Girl From Missouri, The Princess from Genovia | Main | Blueprints: "Eighth Grade" »
Thursday
Aug022018

Review: "Christopher Robin"

by Chris Feil

Off in the Hundred Acre Wood, Winnie the Pooh and friends haven’t changed all that much over the decades. Our Christopher Robin however is all grown up in the real world, having lost his father at a young age before fighting in the war and never returning to visit his childhood daydream oasis. Like the rest of us, he’s grown rigid in adulthood while the rest of the beloved characters remain made of plush.

With Ewan McGregor taking on the adult Christopher, his namesake film presents something as soft as his friends in both its demeanor and its substance. Unlike its recent live action Disney brethren, this film follows its own narrative and is free to explore the characters as it sees fit. And yet it chooses the most obvious one, turning Christopher into an overworked businessman devoting more of his energy to his job than his wife and daughter. Send in Pooh’s implacable chill to play savior to his once kneesocked companion’s soul.

You’ve seen plenty of films unspool this exact narrative but seldom with this vague undercurrent of strangeness. Christopher Robin doesn’t escape the bizarre effect of watching a grown man converse with talking stuffed animals and is maybe only half self-aware of its odd potential. As fitful as a dorm room pot haze where you are the one stone cold sober participant, the film meanders lazily before abruptly transitioning into a grandstand for... mandatory vacation leave? “Do nothing” it begs - relaxation and mindfulness a potentially revolutionary thesis for a children’s film that it undercooks into a headscratcher.

It would be a trip if it weren’t so soggy. Director Marc Forster is an odd fit here to the casualness of the concept, favoring an earnestness that’s pleasant enough but glosses over the film’s best attributes. While its brightest moments come from the juxtaposition of unassuming sweetness and a muted freakshow quality, the film begs to be even weirder.

It steps in line with its head in the clouds, and it makes for something only fleetingly imaginative. Of all of Disney’s live action rehashes, Pooh feels particularly least urgent for a new take and the film meets that in kind with something soothingly laid back. The charm is dependable, both from McGregor and the idiosyncrasies of A.A. Milne’s characters. Like Ocean’s 8 earlier this summer, there is something valuable these days in a film that keeps its stakes low and amusing when the outside world is so fraught. This is a film even more mild mannered than the beloved stuffed bear himself. It’s kind of refreshing.

This serves to assuage its plentiful misses: the aforementioned strictures to cliche, general aimlessness, giving Hayley Atwell nothing to do as Christopher’s wife. Though it does excitingly feel removed from the Disney homogenization, it doesn’t strike its own identity either. It’s sharpest take on the characters (aside from the neat visual precision of making the characters fabricated like actual stuffed animals come to CGI life) is that Tigger is the absolute worst.

It’s not much of a movie to remember or capable to stir much ire, but still fascinating for what a braver version of itself could have been.

Grade: C+

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Reader Comments (6)

So it's "Hook" meets Winnie the Pooh?

August 2, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterforever1267

Once I saw Marc Forster's named attached, I knew something wasn't going to go right and.... once again my worst fears came true.

August 3, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterthevoid99

When the world wasn't so fraught?

August 3, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterKenny Fillis

I'm very glad Seth MacFarlane didn't try this to round out his Ted Trilogy.

August 3, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

I think the look of the stuffed animals basically tell us how compromised this feel. Either make them like the actual original things (http://exhibitions.nypl.org/treasures/items/show/28) or the general versions that you may get at Disney Stores worldwide (https://www.shopdisney.com/winnie-the-pooh-plush-mini-bean-bag-7-1358454). The current version seems somewhat in the middle and thus not really recognizable as either thing.

August 4, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterkin

look how an animation can touch millions around the world , and most importantly i have seen it reach to most remote places on earth where either children are carrying a figure of it on their bags or lunch boxes , truly heart warming Williamjacket

August 7, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterzacklee

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