By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)
Unlike last year’s Goodbye Christopher Robin, which serves as a biopic for Winnie-the-Pooh creator A.A. Milne, this live-action/CGI Disney production is pure fantasy. Acting as a sequel to all of the fictionalized Christopher Robin/Winnie-the-Pooh stories, this film examines what could happen when the title character is forced to grow up and give up his wildly imaginative adventures in the Hundred Acre Wood. The result is a charming, humorous, but overly saccharine film that is held back by cliche writing and predictability. It is a movie which tries to appeal to both children and adults, but fails to completely satisfy either.
The film begins on Christopher Robin’s (portrayed as a child by Orton O’Brien) last day at home before he gets shipped off to boarding school. Winnie-the-Pooh, Tigger and the rest of the gang throw Christopher a going away party. The event is fun, but obviously bittersweet. Christopher promises Pooh that he will never forget about them and will eventually return. The movie flashes forward through the strict tutelage at boarding school, tragic moments in his life, and ends with Robin (played as an adult by Ewan McGregor) being a hardworking father to daughter Madeline (Bronte Carmichael) and husband to loving wife Evelyn (Haley Atwell).
Life should be wonderful for Christopher and his family; however, his dedication to his work begins to take a toll on their lives. That magic which brought him joy as a child is completely gone and thus mostly absent from the lives ofs Evelyn and Madeline. At a time when Christopher needs help the most, his magical friends reappear in his life to bring him and the family some much needed joy and excitement.
Written by Alex Ross Perry and Allison Schroeder (based on characters created by A.A. Milner and E.H. Shepard), director Marc Forster’s Christopher Robin is a lovable and entertaining movie that simply doesn’t break any new ground. The themes and messages get dished out too obviously and predictably and the climax and resolution both play out too perfectly with overly sweet moments. Both children and adults should enjoy the amiable humor, along with the references and call backs to all of the expected elements and beats for which Winnie-the-Pooh’s world is known. Some of the more mature moments will probably go over the kid’s heads, while these parts will be all too familiar for the grown-ups.
Despite these weaknesses, I still had much fun. Both the voice talents and live-action cast members deliver sincere performances which add to the movie’s entertainment value. The voice work by Jim Cummings (Pooh, Tigger), Brad Garrett (Eeyore), Nick Mohammed (Piglet), Peter Capaldi (Rabbit), Sophie Okonedo (Kanga), Sarah Sheen (Roo), Toby Jones (Owl) is absolutely wonderful and perfectly suited for their respective characters.
Both Haley Atwell and Bronte Carmichael perform well as Christopher’s wife and daughter. Ewan McGregor delivers a fantastic turn as the titular character– perfectly offering tense, cold gruffness and showing great physical and joyful exuberance when Robin gets his groove back. The film also has great work by Mark Gatiss, Oliver Ford Davies, and much more.
This movie would make for a fine matinee visit to the theater and an even better time at home for families to bond. Because the movie just doesn’t quite achieve the magic it should, I cannot recommend spending the money for full-priced tickets. Marc Forster’s movie is absolutely fine for families to enjoy, but the writing by Perry and Schroeder follows an all-too-familiar path that other, sometimes better, films have already covered.