If the mischievous Peter Pan could find a way to grow up, it only makes sense that the well-mannered Christopher Robin could find one, too. Like Steven Spielberg’s Hook did for Pan, Mark Forster’s Christopher Robin asks what would happen if the human hero of A.A. Milne’s beloved children’s tales grew up and forgot about his times in the 100-Acre Wood. It seems that in both cases, family and fun take the back seat to a dispassionate desk job. But what brings the humbug Robin (Ewan McGregor) back in touch with his younger self is not an old rivalry, but a silly old friend who misses his playmate.
A quick little prologue sees the young Christopher part ways from his stuffed pals. “I’m not going to do nothing anymore,” he tells Winnie the Pooh, who’s famous for doing nothing. But before he goes, he invites Pooh to come visit him in the real world, and the surprisingly taxing sequence which follows forces us to watch as the real world quickly strips Christopher of his imagination while Pooh Bear hesitates to accept his invitation.
This film, as all of its kind do, portrays the metamorphosis from childhood to adulthood as a natural, if trying, process. There seems to be no room for 40-year-old kids in Hollywood, only adults who’ve forgotten how to have a good time – or at least, how to have fun like they used to. But not all’s bad for Christopher. He makes good money as a manager for a luggage company to support his wife Evelyn (Hayley Atwell) and loving daughter Madeline (Bronte Carmichael).
However, on this particular weekend, as it seems to have done many times before, the job gets in the way of a family vacation, and Robin’s stuck finding a way to fix the company budget while his frustrated wife and disappointed daughter leave for holiday. Seems as good a time as any for Pooh, who cannot find any of his friends in the wood, to finally take Christopher Robin up on his offer. Right?
What unfolds is a touching deflowering of Robin’s seemingly vile adultness – the 100-Acre regulars, including Tigger, Eeyore and Piglet, mistake businessman Christopher for a creature which sucks away happiness – by Pooh’s simple, almost philosophical approach to life (“I always get to where I’m going by walking away from where I’ve been”). Then once Christopher Robin is restored, the attention is turned towards Madeline who, in her adoration for her father, has been engulfed by his humdrum presence. Apparently, it’s wrong for her to read inside when she could be playing outside.
Nostalgia will naturally play a huge role in the reception of Christopher Robin. With a new Mary Poppins coming out later this year, and live action versions of Dumbo and Jungle Book set for 2019, Disney continues to put a whole lot of stock in our tendency to see old things in newish kinds of ways. Many will rejoice to once again hear voice actor Jim Cummings – who’s played the Winnie and Tigger roles for years – while many others will not be able to look pass the gang’s updated CGI looks.
Regardless, the stuffed animals, Pooh Bear in particular, are the stars of the show. Writers Alex Ross Perry, Tom McCarthy, and Allison Schroeder pack a great deal of heart and intelligence in the small wisdoms of Pooh. It seems strange, however, that their attacks are held primarily against responsibility.
At one point, Robin squares off against his business papers and briefcase, which the animals believe to be evil. Robin’s hardly painted as a bad man, just a busy one. And while it’s important to tell children that there’s more to life than work and chores, labeling responsibility as a villain is hardly a positive message.
It’s strange to think that the least interesting part of a movie called Christopher Robin is, in fact, Christopher Robin. McGregor has the dubious task of jump starting a first and third act which are of hardly any importance. However, the joy he’s able to manifest during his brief time in the woods looks and feels genuine. Perhaps it is; it isn’t every day you get to play around with Winnie the Pooh.
The fuzzy residents of the 100-Acre Wood cutely convert to the real world in Christopher Robin, a mildly entertaining film that'll remind kids and grown-ups alike of the fun that can be had in doing absolutely nothing important.