Marc Forster’s Christopher Robin benefits from a strong cast. The uneven story is more interested in the technology than the themes it tries to convey.
It is interesting that within the span of a year, we have gotten two live-action films centered around Christopher Robin, the real-life character from A. A. Milne’s and E.H. Shepard’s Winnie the Pooh. The latest, Disney’s Christopher Robin opens the week end.
Marc Forster (Finding Neverland, World War Z) leads the troupe this time from a script by Alex Ross Perry and Allison Schroeder based on Perry’s story. The story is full of characters and situations audiences will be able to relate to as young Christopher Robin heads off to boarding school. As a last hurrah in the Hundred Acre Wood, Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, Eeyore, Kanga, Owl and Rabbit work to give Christopher a proper send off.
Through a combination of live action and hand-drawn animation, the film’s opening sequences guide us through Christopher’s transition from childhood in to adult hood. It was a clever way to convey the pertinent parts of the story without belaboring points that the audience was well aware.
In his later years, Christopher is now an efficiency expert at the Winslow Luggages company. The older Christopher is played, rather handsomely, and devilishly by Ewan McGregor; he is married to Evelyn (Hayley Atwell) and they have a daughter, Madeline (Bronte Carmichael).
The film is set in post – World War II London, so I would imagine a bleakness that the film conveys. There are multiple reasons for this stylistic choice on the part of Forster and cinematographer, Matthias Koenigswieser namely conveying Robin’s emotional state.
In an interesting parallel, the Hundred Acre Wood was as drab and dreary as then – modern London. It isn’t until Robin catches up with Pooh (voiced by Jim Cummings) that he realizes how much he’s missed out on his adult life and how much they needed each other.
To this point, the story is self-aware of the passage of time. The pacing of the first act matches the drab look presented to us. In a dramatic sense, the world is waking from a deep slumber only Christopher Robin can shake. Unfortunately, this leads to a painfully sticky first act. Once the action picks up, and we catch up with the rest of our friends, Tigger (voiced by Jim Cummings), Eeyore (voiced beautifully by Brad Garrett), Piglet (Nick Mohammed), Rabbit (Peter Capaldi) and Owl (Toby Jones), the story moves at a much faster clip.
Forster manages to capture the essence of imagination through the characters, a hallmark of the enduring Winnie the Pooh legacy, even if this story forces its goodwill for the sake of carrying on the character’s legacies. The film’s themes are just as relevant as ever: sometimes we do need to stop and smell the roses.
It sounds cliché, but it is true. This is where Disney’s Christopher Robin misses the mark: the worlds the film inhabits requires active participation, and yet even when that participation happens, the film gets stuck under its own weight.
The innovation that A.L. Milne and E.H. Shepard used to create a series of loveable characters that have since fueled the imaginations of people all over the world is sadly missing from this uneven entry. If we enjoy this film, it is because of our relationship to those characters, and not the story told here. In a way, it would make a rather interesting double viewing with the 2017 biopic, Goodbye Christopher Robin.
Now in theaters, Christopher Robin is rated PG by the MPAA.