Reviewed by: Blake Wilson
The pleasure of childhood fantasies
Losing one’s sense of joy in life
The potential positive and negative effects of growing up in a boarding school
The effect of war on young man and how being a veteran matures and changes one
Post tramatic stress disorder
The pressures and difficulties of being a father, husband and reliable breadwinner with a stressful and demanding job who must make touch decisions
Regrets of a father about how his time has been spent
The real world dangers involved in a child running away from home to a distant place
Ewan McGregor … Christopher Robin
Hayley Atwell … Evelyn Robin—Christopher’s wife
Toby Jones … Owl (voice)
Jim Cummings … Winnie the Pooh—a toy bear / Tigger—a toy tiger (voice)
Bronte Carmichael … Madeline Robin—Christopher’s daughter
Brad Garrett … Eeyore—a toy donkey (voice)
Peter Capaldi … Rabbit (voice)
Mark Gatiss … Keith Winslow—Christopher’s boss
Sophie Okonedo … Kanga—a toy kangaroo (voice)
Tristan Sturrock … Christopher’s Father
Adrian Scarborough … Hal Gallsworthy
Roger Ashton-Griffiths … Ralph Butterworth
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|Director:||Marc Forster—“Quantum of Solace” (2008), “Machine Gun Preacher” (2011), “The Kite Runner” (2007), “World War Z” (2013)|
Walt Disney Pictures
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Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
“Sooner or later, your past catches up to you.”
Our story begins when Christopher Robin was still a young boy. He’s about to leave for boarding school, so his “Hundred Acre Wood” pals throw him a farewell party. After moving away, Christopher grows up in boarding school and hardly ever sees his family. He then graduates, gets married, and serves in World War II. Following the war, Christopher settles down into a respectable efficiency expert at Winslow Luggages. But what he doesn’t realize is that he hasn’t spent quality time with the family that lives with him.
Christopher (Ewan McGregor) finally gets around to planning a weekend trip with his wife and daughter. But when a work emergency occurs, he is ordered to stay put. Meanwhile, a heavy fog has appeared in the Hundred Acre Wood, and Pooh (voice of Jim Cummings) has lost all of his friends. He decides the only one that can help is Christopher, even though he hasn’t seen him in 30 years. Through an old door at the bottom of a tree, Pooh is miraculously transported to London, where he reunites with his long-lost friend. At first, Christopher tries to not believe what’s going on, but later he comes around to helping Pooh out.
Perhaps the biggest compliment I can give “Christopher Robin” is that the story (at least for the most part) feels just as gentle and sweet as what a Pooh movie should be. Yes, this plot is predictable at times and doesn’t have much in terms of imagination or depth (and many critics have not been happy about this). But, the movie isn’t intended to be that. We get a simple story that is easy to follow and doesn’t resort to complex or convoluted subplots.
Speaking of the gang, I was really impressed with how the filmmaking team depicted them. Most resemble the look of an aged, stuffed animal, which felt very appropriate. The voice acting is also very solid. I was thrilled to hear Cummings again as Pooh and Tigger, as their voices don’t sound like they’ve aged at all since the late-90’s. I also thought Brad Garrett and Toby Jones were terrific choices for Eeyore and Owl, as they sound much like the earlier animated characters. Eeyore, in particular, steals the show a handful of times with funny lines.
On the lesser side of things, I found Piglet and Rabbit’s voices to be too different from what I remember. However, the personalities are still executed pretty solidly. Rabbit was my favorite character from the earlier movies, and I was slightly disappointed that he didn’t get nearly as much to do as some of the others. But, he still has a decent amount of dialog in the handful of scenes where he appears. A somewhat odd continuity error involves Roo still being young after 30 years. But, I didn’t mind that so much.
As Christopher, McGregor gives a multi-layered performance that really works. His interactions with the (stuffed) animals are very convincing. Hayley Atwell (Agent Carter from the Marvel films and TV series) plays his wife Evelyn. She isn’t given much to do, but she does well with what she’s given. The music score wisely includes several nods to earlier Pooh favorites. And hearing “Up, Down, Touch the Ground” and “The Most Wonderful Thing About Tiggers” again was a nice treat. Unlike “Jungle Book,” the film doesn’t linger on these songs awkwardly. Instead, these moments are kept brief so they don’t pull you out of the story.
The cinematography is absolutely beautiful. The contrast between different color schemes reflecting Christopher’s changing persona is very well-executed, as well. The Hundred Acre Wood is also nicely realized, as the production design also handily captures the gentle and whimsical vibe of these classic characters.
The only scenes that seem out of place with the otherwise wholesome vibe are a very brief scene of Christopher fighting in the war, and an ending confrontation that seems a little too on the nose—considering the circumstances.
The main message here is that while being productive is a good thing, sometimes not doing anything can be beneficial (as Pooh and Christopher say, “Doing nothing can often lead to the best something”). I can think of a few times in my own life where God has given me the idea that I needed to slow down and take a breather, and let Him work. In fact, sometimes when we slow down and let God be in charge, He will do something even greater than we can ever imagine.
The film encourages us to choose our priorities wisely and to be smart in how we spend our time, especially when it comes to loved ones. Work is definitely part of life, but so is family, friends, fun (and most importantly, our relationship with Jesus). Christopher comes to understand that his family and relationships carry more value than his job ever will.
At the same time, the film implies that our influence on others is stronger than what we may perceive. Christopher’s parents were largely absent in his life. As a result, Christopher picked up on the idea that being consistently absent from his wife and daughter wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. Parents should be reminded that they need to do their best to be a positive, Godly influence to their children. Proverbs 27 reminds us that our influence on others is indeed very strong:
“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” –Proverbs 27:17
Language: Toward the end, Christopher’s boss exclaims, “My Lord, he’s gone bonkers!” There’s one nearly inaudible exclamation that sounded like “oh g**” (but it was hard to distinguish). At one point, Tigger says, “Cheese and crackers!”
Adult Content: Christopher and Evelyn kiss a few times as a married couple.
Violence: The brief war scene I mentioned earlier is probably the reason why the film was rated PG. There is a loud explosion (a building is seen bursting apart in flames). Soldiers are seen running for cover, and ash briefly rains from the sky. This moment may prove to be a little scary for younger viewers. Elsewhere, Christopher falls into a deep pit and is knocked unconscious. He has a dream where an imaginary Heffalump (or an elephant) is yanking him away forcefully from his friends.
Besides that, just about everything else is mild slapstick. Tigger causes some minor property damage with his reckless bouncing. A person runs into a pole. Pooh unintentionally causes a few shelves to fall (multiple dishes break). Eeyore is accidentally tossed into the air and lands face-first in a pot. A car accidentally crashes into a newspaper stand. Tigger, Eeyore and Piglet crash into a car windshield. Christopher pretends for a couple minutes to fight (and try to get rid of) an imaginary Heffalump.
Drugs/Alcohol: It’s not discussed at all, but Christopher’s boss acts like he could be inebriated, near the beginning of the film. A driver insists he saw Pooh and his friends talk. The police come around and respond, “Have you had too much lemonade?”
Other: Madeline (Christopher’s daughter) goes on a train trip to London all by herself without parental supervision, although she does write a letter discussing her absence (or in Pooh terms, expotition). Christopher’s boss is pretty manipulative and controlling. Someone at Christopher’s job comes across Eeyore’s tail and mistakes it for a “voodoo heirloom.”
Out of Disney’s long list of characters, there’s perhaps none more beloved to me personally than Pooh and the gang. I grew up in the era when there was a Pooh movie in theaters every other year (a strategy that Disney now uses with “Star Wars” of all things), and toys and TV cartoons that were hard to miss. However, what appealed to me most about these characters was their gentle and wholesome nature. They never tried to be edgy or modern. It was a fun, whimsical and safe atmosphere where I would often let my imagination run free. I fondly remember creating my own stories and adventures with these characters as a young child.
Of course, kids and family movies have changed since my childhood. We now get controversy over adult issues being intentionally placed in movies aimed at children. And, yes, Disney too has done so. It’s so rare nowadays to run into movies that are wholesome and safe for kids to see. With its titular character now an adult, “Christopher Robin” is decisively a little more mature than the “Winnie the Pooh” cartoons I grew up with. However, this movie is nearly free of any serious content concerns.
Not to mention, there are a few strong, positive messages here for the adults in the crowd. We are reminded of the importance of the loved ones in our lives, as well as how we should take seriously the influence we have on the little ones we have in tow. Not to mention, it is always a treat getting to introduce the children of this generation to characters that (thankfully) haven’t changed in the era we live in today.
So, “Christopher Robin” isn’t just a movie for kids. It’s a movie for ALL ages (well, I would recommend ages 6 and up). It may make you smile, laugh and even tear up (I found myself doing so a couple of times). And, it’s the kind of all-ages fare that Disney should definitely make more often.