Review: Christopher Robin

PLOT: Thirty years after his adventures in the Hundred Acre Wood, a now grown-up Christopher Robin (Ewan McGregor) has forgotten all about his pals Tigger, Piglet, Eeyore, Kanga, Roo, Owl, Rabbit, and of course, Winnie the Pooh. Now a harried businessman, his old pal Winnie heads to London in order to wake up his former buddy, and help him rediscover his inner sense of wonder.

REVIEW: Fresh on the heels of GOODBYE CHRISTOPHER ROBIN, a story which tried to tell the dark truth behind A. A Milne’s Winnie the Pooh books, comes Disney’s distinctly more fanciful CHRISTOPHER ROBIN, which embraces fantasy just a strongly as the other film tried to tear it down. An unusually light effort from Marc Forester (with a screenplay by QUEEN OF EARTH’s Alex Ross Perry and HIDDEN FIGURES’s Allison Schroeder) this intentionally gentle, retro family flick may be too light for kids raised on Pixar and Marvel, but isn’t without its own distinct charm.

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Having Ewan McGregor in the lead is a major bonus, with him already a master at acting opposite CGI creatures, a skill he demonstrated over and over in the STAR WARS prequels. When he looks at the CGI characters, he really seems to be looking at something – this is a skill I don’t think a lot of actors really have. McGregor is a master at this.

That helps sell this fanciful tale, which is actually pretty reminiscent of HOOK, albeit much gentler. There’s no real conflict, with this only real goal being to get Christopher to start enjoying life again, and to let his wife (Hayley Atwell) and daughter into his world a little more. There are no real villains, except of course Winnie’s imaginary Heffalumps.

The big selling point is that this is the first live-action film for Pooh, and the CGI used to make him and the rest of the Hundred Acre Wood characters come to life is impeccable. They look like real stuffed animals come to life, and I’d wager this has some of the best CGI I’ve ever seen in a Disney movie, although it’s so invisible and low-key, people probably won’t get just how amazing the VFX actually are.

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The voice casting is terrific, with the great Jim Cummings voicing Winnie and Tigger, while Brad Garrett steals every scene as the voice of the horribly depressed Eeyore – who needs some serious anti-depressants – stat. Other than the critters, this comes close to being a one man show for McGregor, with the majority of the running time just having him interact with Winnie and the others rather than any actual actors. Even still, Atwell is a warm presence as his beautiful wife, while young Bronte Carmichael is very natural as his daughter.

It’s all quite light and relaxed, being very much like a Winnie the Pooh cartoon come to life. Minus one frantic chase through London and a surprisingly grim opening flashback to WW2, CHRISTOPHER ROBIN is among the sweetest, tamest kids films in recent memory – it probably should have scored a G-rating rather than the PG it’s going out as. Kids used to the non-stop stimuli of Disney’s other films might be bored, but younger kids will adore it, and their parents will find it very sweet indeed – even if I must admit it’s no PADDINGTON 2 (what is though?).