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Christopher Robin – Movie Review

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Christopher Robin – Movie Review

Rating: B (Good)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Walt Disney Studios

Ever since A.A. Milne’s classic stories of a honey-loving bear were brought to animated life in 1966, Winnie the Pooh has been one of Disney’s most endearing and lovable properties. The shorts and subsequent feature films have occasionally touched on the theme of growing up and the importance of remembering one’s childhood. Christopher Robin explores that head-on by showing an older version of Pooh’s one human friend. Director Marc Forster has crafted a sweet film with a big heart and the filmmakers have lovingly adapted the animals of the Hundred Acre Wood to fit in this new environment. Between this film, Paddington 2 and Peter Rabbit, 2018 has been a splendid year for seeing British storybook animals adapted to the big screen.

It’s difficult not to be taken back, upon first seeing such characters as Pooh, Tigger, Piglet and Eeyore. There is an innocence and distinct quality to Milne’s creations that allows them to be immediately identifiable. While Forster and director of photography Matthias Koenigswieser use a colour palette that sets the Hundred Acre Wood in a more realistic world than the animated films, it nonetheless feels like that forest where these animals have gone on a wide number of adventures. The early scenes of Christopher Robin at work fittingly have little magic to them and the film surprisingly goes into the nitty-gritty of his business.

The meetings between Christopher Robin and the animals provide the required sweetness, but the film never goes too heavily into schmaltzy territory. The new character designs don’t feel off-putting and the animators do a commendable job of placing them into this live-action world. The innocent humour of the original stories and animated films remains intact, especially as Christopher attempts to get used to the return of his stuffed bear. The chemistry between them is lovely, as helped by Ewan McGregor’s strong work in the titular role and Jim Cummings again voicing Winnie the Pooh. Christopher’s wife and daughter are the standard characters often seen in these stories of workaholic fathers, although the latter gets more time to shine when she meets her father’s childhood friends.

Pooh naturally gets the most screentime, but Eeyore ends up stealing the show. Brad Garrett captures the gloominess as well as the hidden intelligence of the donkey. Tigger, also voiced by Cummings, is similarly a delight, thanks to his appropriately bouncy personality. Piglet is as adorable as he ever was and, for the first time in a Disney production, is voiced by a British actor. Marc Forster makes good use of our familiarity with the books and animated films, but the nods feel like genuine parts of the story and characters, rather than mere fan service. The fear of Heffalumps and Woozles leads to a visually stunning sequence of Christopher underwater as well as playing thematic importance in his character development. The classic Sherman Brothers songs are interwoven into the film, with Richard Sherman even contributing a few new original songs.

Christopher Robin is a worthy addition to the Winnie the Pooh canon with a heartwarming message about family and childhood. The world may seem dark and dire, but as long as we remember the good parts of our childhood, a little bit of positivity will shine through in our lives. The characters are treated with the proper amount of respect and while one questions how the Milnes would have felt about this particular story, Alan Alexander Milne would be pleased the animals of the Hundred Acre Wood still resonate with people. Ewan McGregor makes for a believable, older Christopher Robin and Winnie the Pooh is a charming and sweet-natured bear we could use more of in our lives.

 

Stefan Ellison
THE SCENE


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