Christopher Robin (2018)
Director: Marc Forster
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Hayley Atwell, Bronte Carmichael
Synopsis: A working-class family man, Christopher Robin, encounters his childhood friend Winnie-the-Pooh, who helps him to rediscover the joys of life.
Genre: Animation, Adventure, Comedy
MPAA Rating: PG (for some action)
Release Date: August 3, 2018
Few characters over the last century have captured the true nature of childhood innocence and curiosity like Winnie the Pooh, a talking teddy bear created by author A. A. Milne in 1926. Over the near century since its inception, the character has seen numerous book publications and film adaptations and remains one of the most popular and iconic characters ever created. The latest film adaptation by director Marc Forster gets the live-action treatment, transporting Pooh and his friends out of the animated world and into our world for the first time.
The film opens with a young Christopher Robin (Orton O'Brien) telling Pooh that he's leaving the Hundred Acre Wood to go to boarding school, but vowing to never forget him and their experiences together. As he matures into an adult, we see moments of pain but also joy, as he meets and marries a young woman named Evelyn (Hayley Atwell) and together they have a daughter Madeline (Bronte Carmichael). During hard times at work though, Christopher begins distancing himself from his family, placing his job as his top priority. However, after Pooh suddenly stumbles into his backyard in London from the Hundred Acre Wood, Christopher sets off to return Pooh home.
On the surface, the weakest element in Christopher Robin seems to be its largely uninspired and overly familiar story. And it is certainly true many films have recently addressed the problem of our vocations getting in the way and us losing sight of what's truly important in life (The Greatest Showman comes to my immediate mind). Nevertheless, this hasn't been as fully explored within the context of losing our childlike state of mind--our curiosity, sense of wonder, and the art of just "doing nothing" as the film so eloquently yet simply describes having fun. As we grow up, we lose our imagination--toy airplanes no longer can fly, matchbox cars no longer can race, and stuffed animals no longer can talk. Instead, we only interact and have interest in "real" objects--things that actually help us or are actually alive. The stuffed animals are put in the shelves in the closet and the toys in a drawer, forgotten about until perhaps they're passed down to another child. Toy Story expertly commented on this idea when Andy grew up and stopped playing with his toys, ultimately culminating in the toys being passed down to another child at the end of Toy Story 3, starting the cycle over again.
This is not to say we should never grow up and mature into responsible adults, but that sometimes we need to stop and remember who we were. In the increasingly busy and chaotic world we live in, it's easy to always be focused on what makes sense financially or logically. But Christopher Robin smartly warns us to not rob ourselves (or our children) of the childhood nature that we are all instinctively given. We should work hard to achieve those quality grades in school, but also leave room to release and have fun, whether it's riding your bike or playing pitch and catch or some other activity. We as humans need these healthy releases not only during childhood but also adulthood. Winnie the Pooh is the visual metaphor of our childhood, as he's naive and "small brained" at times yet innocent, well-meaning and good natured. He comes back into Christopher Robin's life at the perfect time to remind him of who he was (and who we were) and subsequently and inadvertently rescues him from possibly ruining his daughter's childhood while also straightening his priorities.
On a technical level, the film brings the beloved characters to life in a visually satisfying and convincing way, yet the best of Winnie the Pooh still lies in the animated realm, as the characters feel a bit out of place in the live action world. That said, the scenes involving Pooh and Christopher Robin in the Hundred Acre Wood are beautifully crafted, from the signature tree to the two of them looking at the sunset together.
Christopher Robin tells a familiar story, but layers it with a grave message about the value and beauty of childhood that is more relevant than ever in today's busy society. It's well paced and Pooh and his companions are brought to life with impressive visuals, even though a live action effort wasn't really needed or even the best decision. Ultimately, though, the film's innocence, fun, and intelligence makes it an irresistibly satisfying experience at the movies, and the joy of hearing kids and adults alike chuckling in the theater proves the film accomplished its goal: to bring out the child in all of us.
Written by Anthony Watkins, August 6, 2018