Christopher Robin is the latest live-action reimagining of Disney Studio’s classic characters. Based on the beloved cartoon series inspired by A. A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh stories, this film follows a grown-up Christopher Robin (Ewan McGregor) struggling to find a balance between his demanding career and his role as husband and father to his wife (Hayley Atwell) and daughter (Bronte Carmichael). Unable to join his family on a holiday to his childhood home due to pressing professional deadlines, Christopher receives a visit from his childhood friend and stuffed animal, Winnie the Pooh (Jim Cummings; voice), that leads him on a journey of self-discovery back to the Hundred Acre Wood.
IS IT ANY GOOD? (GRADE: B+)
Similar to many of Disney’s recent live-action remakes (like Cinderella, The Jungle Book, and Beauty and the Beast), Christopher Robin doesn’t bring much novelty or surprise to the table. However, what it lacks in originality, it more than makes up for in charm, nostalgic value, and respect for its source material. Show-stealing performances by voice actors Jim Cummings and Brad Garrett (who voice Winnie the Pooh/Tigger and Eeyore respectively) carry most of the film’s wit and emotional gravity. Cummings’ voice has become iconic to the franchise and aides the familiar musical themes in bathing fans of the classic cartoons in gooey, honey-sweet nostalgia.
Sequences through the opening and closing moments of the film also feature sketch-like animations reminiscent of E.H. Shepard’s illustrations that originally brought these beloved characters to life. Quick and witty banter between Pooh and his friends in the Hundred Acre Woods delightfully shines through a screenplay credited to five different writers. It occasionally feels thematically on-the-nose and tired, especially in scenes where our anthropomorphized heroes are absent. Top-notch animation (that has become easily expected from Disney) only enhances the charm of the beautiful English countryside setting.
IS IT OKAY FOR YOUR FAMILY?
Christopher Robin is rated PG for some action. In an expository sequence showing Christopher’s transition into adulthood he is shown as a soldier in a brief battle sequence that includes loud noises but doesn’t explicitly depict any actual violence. He is later struck on the head by a falling stone while wandering through a foggy wood and dreams of a scary heffalump but the danger is very mild. Beside one very British usage of “My Lord,” the language is clean.
ANY WORTHWHILE MESSAGES?
The main themes of Christopher Robin are timeless and find their center in familial relationships. Christopher’s struggle between pleasing his boss and being a present husband, father, and neighbor bring to mind the oft-quoted “No other success can compensate for failure in the home.” This film reminds us to be a little less busy in a context reminiscent of as we strive to be parents, friends, or neighbors that “hath chosen that good part,” of prioritizing quality relationships over professional advancement or even well-intentioned practicality.
The importance of imaginative play is highlighted for not only children, but their more mature counterparts as well. Perhaps the most poignant scene of the film shows Christopher Robin losing patience with Winnie the Pooh as they wander through a foggy Hundred Acre Wood. His impatience turns to shame as he recognizes that Pooh, like his own daughter, derives his view of self-worth through how he is treated by his father-figure. These heartwarming and inspiring themes are cleverly and effectively delivered to audiences of all ages.
If you enjoy Christopher Robin, we've got a feeling that Babe will be right up your alley. Rent or buy ithere.
Michael Stanley is a recent graduate of Brigham Young University’s Film/Media Arts program and currently works as a video production specialist in Salt Lake City. He and his wife, along with their soon-to-be-born son and pet cat, live in Saratoga Springs, Utah