James Rosario is a writer, filmmaker, and musician based in the Asheville, NC area. His record label, Bigger Boat Records, releases...
Directed by Marc Forster
Reviewed by James Rosario on August 26, 2018
The problem with Christopher Robin is that it has a scattered tone. It’s not quite sure if it’s a feel-good, fancy-free family pic, or a dark and somber critique on lost childhoods and mental illness. Edging further in one direction or the other (I wouldn’t even care which one) could have provided opportunities for something very special. Instead, we’re left with a ho-hum retread of familiar family themes we’ve seen a million times in the likes of Mary Poppins (1964) and Hook (1991).
The story is simple. Christopher Robin (Ewen McGregor) - the boy who once roamed the Hundred Acre Wood with an assortment of imaginary friends - has grown up. He finds himself engrossed in his job and neglecting his wife and daughter (Hayley Atwell and Bronte Carmichael). It takes Pooh’s surprising arrival in London (voiced by Jim Cummings) to break him out of his rut and rediscover what family really means.
The somewhat long-winded (yet stylish) introduction suggests Christopher Robin might be a tale of post-traumatic stress disorder and the challenges one faces upon returning home from war. This is disappointingly left by the wayside in favor of standard workaholic father territory. I don’t mind so much that this old Disney standby is used as the story’s main motivation, but I wonder what the point of showing him in the muck and death of war was if only to abandon the whole thing as if it never existed? I’m not here to critique what could have been, but a PTSD Christopher Robin would have been something I had never considered. It could have been quite interesting. Oh well.
Similarities to the Paddington films are another cause for concern but are minor in my opinion. Yes, Winnie the Pooh and Paddington are both anthropomorphic CGI bears who have a propensity for property damage, but the comparisons end there. As the father of a 4-year-old, I am well-versed in the differences between these two lovable bears.
Christopher Robin is likable enough, though. Quite honestly, the special effects alone are worth the price of admission. Pooh and the gang are as realistic as any computer-generated characters I’ve ever seen. The detail achieved with the “well-used stuffed animal” treatment is spectacular. CGI is so much more effective when it’s based on something familiar. It’s hard to pull-off truly authentic and captivating textures when no one has ever touched a real dinosaur or wrinkly Thanos. But every one of us knows what a loved stuffed toy feels like to hold. These simple nuances are far more compelling than shiny robots or slimy aliens.
The cast is good too. Ewen McGregor continues to be perfectly acceptable, and Hayley Atwell delivers a more than adequate fed-up wife. At one point - when Christopher shows up at the cottage but then says he must leave immediately - you can see the pure rage in her eyes. She plays it off and walks away, but boy is she pissed! The voice actors all hit their marks as the very recognizable and iconic characters from the Disney animated films. It’s a nice nostalgic touch that helped bring me back into the “kid zone” it’s so easy to fall out of sometimes.
I do recommend Christopher Robin if you’re looking for something to take your kids to. In comparison to most films aimed at youngsters, it’s a damned masterpiece. Although there are some missed opportunities for the adult side of the audience, it’s still a slick little movie that’s great to look at and harmless to the senses. There’s nothing profound about Christopher Robin, but there’s nothing offensive about it either.
Christopher Robin is now playing at area Asheville theaters.
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