When I was seven years old, I had a heartfelt conversation with my Mom at the dinner table. I told her I didn’t want to grow up with tears in my eyes and that I always wanted to be a kid. The idea of not being able to play anymore made me sad.
Disney’s newest entry into their live-action adaptations, Christopher Robin is a 104-minute reminder that growing up is hard; however, taking time to smell the roses is necessary.
The story follows a grown-up Christopher Robin (Ewan McGregor) as a family man living in London. He’s a slave to his job, and it’s tearing away at his wife Evelyn (Hayley Atwell) and his daughter Madeline (Bronte Carmichael), who want to spend time with him.
As an efficiency expert for a luggage company, Christopher has the unenviable task of finding a way to either cut costs or fire fellow employees. The stress of it all begins to overwhelm him until a familiar half shirt-wearing bear reappears in his life.
Ewan McGregor is great in the lead role and impeccably embodies both the staunch responsible adult we meet in the first half of the film and a man who rediscovers the joy of life. McGregor wore Christopher’s inner struggle on his sleeve, making it easier to relate and root for him.
It is not easy to simply “just go with it” from a narrative perspective when the main character reflects what most people deal with daily. Life is difficult at times; bills, family, health, etc.
Most of us can’t say “screw work” because we want to play with a talking donkey. However, the stress compounded by the need to succeed made it easy to understand why Christopher Robin, in fact, needed to take a day off and play with a talking donkey.
Unfortunately, Christopher Robin brings nothing new to the table when it comes to telling its story. It’s essentially Hook with stuffed animals. The things the movie does do, however, it does well, to both its detriment and success.
Seeing Christopher’s life since he was last seen in the Hundred Acre Wood up until his reunion with Pooh takes forty minutes. From there, it takes another fifteen minutes for things to pick up.
A well-done but slow and plodding first half is a rather depressing journey that delivers gut punch after gut punch. The knockout blow is an unhappy exchange between Pooh and Christopher where you shake your head and say, “Damn, Christopher Robin, Damn.” Once the movie picks up, its relentless grip delivers a charming and funny adventure.
The CGI in the film made Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends look like aged stuffed animals instead of actual pigs, tigers, and bears. The aesthetic brought a whimsical feeling to the movie by allowing the characters to appear in public without anyone noticing them because London’s busy industrialists assumed they were toys.
Pooh, voiced by Jim Cummings, gets the most screen time, followed by Eeyore and Tigger. Rabbit, Kanga, and Roo serve as background characters, with Piglet toeing the line between them. Pooh was his old lovable and honey lovin’ self for a bear with little brain, Tigger was as springy as ever, and Eeyore was as depressed as we remember.
In fact, Eeyore, voiced by Brad Garrett, practically steals the show with his perfectly timed gloomy wit. There were also several callbacks to 1977’s The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, which provided a delightful sense of nostalgia.
Christopher Robin didn’t wow me, but I liked it a lot. The film’s fun-filled second half barely makes up for the slow pace of the first half. Perhaps, the writers believed a disheartening voyage before the laughter and hijinks ensured was required to appreciate strong themes of love, friendship, and imagination.