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Dan's Review: Disney squeezes a little more out of the "Pooh" franchise with "Christopher Robin"

Aug 05, 2018 02:28PM ● Published by Dan Metcalf

Ewan McGregor and Jim Cummings in Christopher Robin- © 2018 Disney.

Christopher Robin (Disney)

Rated PG for some action.

Starring Ewan McGregor, Orton O'Brien, Hayley Atwell, Bronte Carmichael, Mark Gatiss, Oliver Ford Davies, Ronke Adekoluejo, Adrian Scarborough, Roger Ashton-Griffiths, Ken Nwosu, John Dagleish, Amanda Lawrence, Katy Carmichael, Tristan Sturrock, Paul Chahidi, (voices of) Jim Cummings, Brad Garrett, Nick Mohammed, Peter Capald, Sophie Okonedo, Sara Sheen, Toby Jones.

Written by Alex Ross Perry and Allison Schroeder based on characters from

Disney's Winnie the Pooh and children's stories by A. A. Milne and E. H. Shepard.

Directed by Marc Forster.

GRADE: B-

REVIEW:

In case you haven’t noticed, the Disney “machine” works kind of like this: Recycle, recycle, recycle. We’re not talking about separating plastics and aluminum cans into blue containers, either. Disney doesn’t like risking anything, and their corporate strategy of late mostly involves repurposing their old “classics” into reboots, re-imaginings, sequels, prequels and especially remaking all of their animated classic features into live-action versions. Even though they’ve already added new Winnie the Pooh animated features in the past 15 years, that wasn’t good enough, so Disney dreamed up a sequel to their animated classic (based on the children’s books by A. A. Milne), this weekend’s arrival of Christopher Robin.

It should be noted that this new film has nothing to do with Christopher Robin Milne, a very real person who inspired his father to write the original children’s stories. The film is a progression of the fantasy surrounding the “Christopher Robin” who converses with talking stuffed animals in the Hundred Acre Woods. For an actual biography of the Milne family, see last year’s Goodbye, Christopher Robin, starring Domhnall Gleason as A. A. Milne.

The story begins with Christopher Robins’ (played by Orton O’Brien as a boy) pending departure from the Hundred Acre Woods as he prepares to enter boarding school and set aside childish things. He grows to adulthood (played by Ewan McGregor), falls in love and marries the lovely Evelyn (Hayley Atwell), who bears the family a daughter named Madeline (Bronte Carmichael). He eventually gains employment at a company that manufactures luggage. With the vigor and stress that comes with responsible fatherhood and success in the business world, Christopher loses the sense of wonder that gave him so much happiness as a child with his stuffed animal friends. When he is forced to lay off 20 percent of his staff, Christopher passes on a weekend with his family in the country to stay behind and work. He is soon visited by his old pal Pooh (voiced by Jim Cummings), who insists that he help find his other Hundred Acre animal friends who have suddenly disappeared. Those pals include Tigger (also voiced by Cummings), Piglet (Nick Mohammed), Eeyore (Brad Garrett), Owl (Toby Jones), Rabbit (Peter Capaldi), Kanga (Sophie Okenedo) and Roo (Sara Sheen). Christopher and Pooh are magically transported from London to the Hundred Acre Wood where he helps find Pooh’s friends and discovers a few truths about his family priorities.

Christopher Robin isn’t a terrible movie and hits all the right notes concerning the importance of childhood wonder and family love. The animatronic-computer-generated stuffed animal friends are impressive, and their voices are well matched. Brad Garrett’s Eeyore steals most scenes with his deep, depressive undertones and Pooh is as sweet and guileless as you’d imagine; the perfect friend with very little brain but a big heart.

What keeps Christopher Robin from being an excellent film is the heavy-handed way the life lessons are delivered, subtlety be damned. The climactic scene where Christopher Robin stands up to his weasel-like corporate boss for the sake of his family is more than a little clichéd, and even more so predictable. There are a few clichéd social justice themes aimed at the greedy that are less than subtle, too. I’m also not convinced that McGregor is the right fit to play the lead character. He seems a little forced in some of his supposed moments of comedy.

Yes, the talking stuffed animals are cute and adorable (and should spur more gift shop sales at Disney parks) and the basic message of family over career is always worth revisiting, but it feels less like an attempt to share these simple truths than it feels like a marketing ploy to squeeze a few more dollars out of the “Pooh” franchise. 


Christopher Robin Trailer

Arts+Entertainment movies movie reviews Animation Children's Literature

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