Once again, the critics have gotten it wrong.
It’s just as simple as that. Some critics have said that Disney’s newest venture Christopher Robin is too simple or doesn’t make sense or is not magical enough. Sadly, these are the types of people who probably need the lessons in this beautiful tale the most. They missed them and the point of the movie entirely. Is Christopher Robin a nostalgic trip down memory lane? Yes, of course, it is. Is Christopher Robin the perfect children’s film? Well, nothing’s perfect. One thing’s for certain, though, Christopher Robin and Disney have given the adults in the audience something they can enjoy. It benefits from while the children laugh at everyone’s favorite silly old bear.
Ewan McGregor plays the titular Christopher Robin. In a beautifully rendered montage of his life, the audience sees that Christopher has been through rough patches. He goes to boarding school. While at boarding school, his father dies. At the funeral, he is told that he is “the man of the house now”. He meets a woman, Evelyn (the wonderful Hayley Atwell), goes to war, and comes home injured and jobless to his wife and three-year-old daughter Madeline. Just like all the soldiers who come home from war, he looks for a job and finds one at Winslow Luggage. (Yes, aptly named for its similarity to the word “woozle”.)
Madeline grows up with her father constantly at work and her mother at her wits end about it. Evelyn warns Christopher that one day he’s going to reach his breaking point and he’s going to crack. The straw that breaks the camel’s back is simple: Christopher has plans to return to Sussex to his family cottage with his family for a vacation. Giles Winslow (Mark Gatiss) keeps him from vacation with the command to work the weekend to find budget cuts or people will have to be fired. So, ever the dutiful worker, he stays behind. While there, Pooh (Jim Cummings) and his friends continue their lives in the Hundred Acre Wood, missing Christopher and unaware of the things he’s gone through. One day, Pooh wakes to a thick fog in the Wood and is unable to find his friends. He goes through the hole in the tree that Christopher used to come through all the time and finds himself in London. What follows is a great look at what happens if you lose your innocence and how you might go about rediscovering it again.
The themes of the film are geared toward the adults of the audience. One such theme is that of rediscovering innocence. Can it be done? The simple answer is yes, yes it can be done. Sometimes it requires help from the people who matter the most to you. Who are those people to Christopher Robin as well as some in the audience? None other than Winnie the Pooh himself. It would seem that the simplistic approach Pooh takes might not be what some were expecting. His silly old adages fit perfectly in the post-World War II world Christopher inhabits and only a person like Christopher, or a person who’s been raised in the world of the Hundred Acre Wood, would understand the true emotional nuances they present to those who need it the most. I feel that that part of the film has been missed by some of the people who have reviewed this film. They’re silly because they’re told from the perspective of a stuffed animal. They’re poignant because they actually make a lot of sense.
Stylistically, Christopher Robin is beautiful. Cinematographer Matthias Koenigswieser painted a lush and sprawling Hundred Acre Wood through the use of light and different camera angles that I’ve not seen in a film for a long time. In fact, many of the camera angles put the audience on the same plane as Pooh and his friends. We never looked down at them in the Wood. Put it simply, Koenigswieser managed to capture a childlike innocence and put it on the screen.
Not that London, when presented to the audience, is any different. London in this film is gorgeous as well but for an entirely different way. The colors are muted. They’re oppressive. They mirror a lot of the emotions Christopher is feeling when he’s in the city. Director Mark Forster made some interesting stylistic and thematic choices in the London setting too that made me giddy.
Of course, McGregor was the perfect choice for Christopher. Somehow, McGregor hasn’t aged a day in ten years. Not only that, his charm and exuberance bubble out of every pore in his body. In every scene, even when Christopher is wrestling with his need to follow rules and his desire for something better. For me personally, no one else could have played Christopher to the level McGregor did. No one could have seamlessly captured the whimsy and wonder Christopher had inside of him.
Pooh and his friends were designed perfectly. They looked and moved like they were stuffed animals. When I heard they were making a live-action Winnie the Pooh film, I was skeptical about how they would handle stuffed animals and bringing them to life but they surpassed my expectations. There was life in them. They were clearly reminiscent of the original stuffed animals that the real Christopher Robin played with when he was a boy. The only issue I had was with Tigger. The green eyes the designers gave him kept distracting me. I always imagined Tigger with brown eyes thanks to the animated films.
I can’t sing Christopher Robin‘s praises enough. Disney did a great job bringing this classic to life and breathing a pleasant grittiness into the audience’s nostalgia. Just because we’ve grown up doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate Winne the Pooh and the lessons he’s taught us, even if he is just a silly old bear.