The warmth of Winnie The Pooh has entertained audiences for just over 90 years; from book form in A.A. Milne’s classic children stories, to Disney’s success making him a global icon and brand with countless movies and products with Pooh and friends face plastered all over them.
It would be difficult not feel cynical going in after the success of other live action, bear-related film ventures. It could easily be soulless and a clear carbon copy of a movie named after a London tube and train station. Disney’s Christopher Robin manages to avoid this and should easily strike an emotional chord with even the coldest of hearts.
About 30-ish years after growing up and leaving Hundred Acre Woods, an older and more broken-down Christopher Robin (Ewan McGregor) is forced to help Pooh return and find his friends when he shows up in London. From there they go on a journey that leads Christopher Robin to rediscover his inner child and mend the relationship with his family that he was torn away from due to the happiness-depriving business he works for. It is not as if it is an overly original story on the part of the film. These kinds of stories are synonymous with fish out of water family films that the other bear who is also cute and could be considered cuddly did in 2014.
Christopher Robin holds some very adult themes lurking in the background of its story. Post-war London is a setting for much of the movie and that brings all its baggage. A slightly distant and scarred Christopher Robin is at the centre, distant due to the Woozels in his life forcing him to work weekends and become increasingly fractured with his family. It is only due to its fun-filled army of stuffed animals that it doesn’t feel bogged down in sadness, while also exploring this to the best of its ability in a way that is fun and entertaining whether for the younger members of the audience or older.
“It’s always a sunny day when Christopher Robin comes to play”
Winnie The Pooh is quite rightly the heart and soul of this movie. He is such an icon of almost everybody’s childhood and in this, he is the same: the star of the show. Pooh is the sole reason I didn’t want the movie to end. He is a loveable and huggable figure who was effortlessly brought to life by some stunning CGI. His wise and ridiculously profound statements provide charm and comedy through the entire movie with the iconic Jim Cummings providing a voice he’s been doing perfectly since the 1980s.
The best moments with Pooh come from observations of London and his child-like fascination with all things. Pooh’s other friends are there for a lot of the journey as well. Tigger, Piglet, Eeyore and the rest of the gang; all of them are also in fine form. They will say their line and make the audience laugh and act as perfect companions to the human. A lot of the best moments came from their reactions to the humans they meet and their hilarious takes on the world around them.
Since these characters are synonymous with being a child and defined a lot of childhoods, you will need a small amount of emotional investment from your past for this movie to work. This is a complete contrast to Paddington. There, I finally mentioned him by name. He didn’t come blasted to you from the Disney machine during your early years in the same way as Pooh; and still managed to dig his claws in and attach his emotional investment, which is what made those movies such a surprise and delight. With Pooh, it is almost expected from him. It is missing some of what made Paddington so marvellous, such as the feeling of wonder and the storybook elements, acknowledging the origins of the movie. The film tries to copy it with some very simple sketch drawings from the original book but never completely commits to this idea.
I cannot put it into words how this movie made me feel. Seeing Tigger sing his “Wonderful Thing About Tiggers” song made me well up. I didn’t expect that to happen, but if you have the right connection to the characters it could wrap you up for this cute adventure. Christopher Robin dips its toe in with some deeper, more adult moments but never explores them to the best of its ability because to be fair it is a kids movie. It lacks the charm and amazement of Paddington as well as its inventive cinematography and stories by giving you spades and spades of Pooh Bear quotes. In terms of a bear-off, Paddington came close to defeat but pulled it out of the bag at the last minute.