Movie Review: “Christopher Robin”

“I don’t want to see Mission Impossible in the theater,” my dad announced yesterday afternoon as we strode into the theater to see Christopher Robin, passing up all the various posters on the wall as we went. “It won’t have the healing powers of an afternoon with Pooh Bear.”

He couldn’t have been more right about those “Healing Powers,” haha! Christopher Robin may be the purest, softest film I’ve seen in theaters since The Tigger Movie (and that was a loooooooong time ago). You just can’t go wrong with Pooh Bear–and you can never be too old for the Hundred Acre Wood, either.

Or can you be too old for it? That’s basically the premise of Christopher Robin: what would happen if the little boy who romped with Pooh and Friends grew up and, in the hustle and bustle of adult life, forgot all about his childhood adventures?

The film’s prologue, a beautifully-crafted mix of illustration and live action that hearkens back to A.A. Milne’s original stories, shows Christopher Robin struggling through school, facing the death of a parent, falling in love, and even fighting in World War II–but it also shows how a tyrannical work environment and the never-ending drive to excel, surpass, and overachieve completely kill his joy. By the time the movie gets into full swing he’s so invested in his work that he’s alienated himself from his wife and daughter. Things look pretty bleak for Christopher Robin.

And then Winnie the Pooh emerges from the Hundred Acre Word, turning Christopher’s crumbling life upside down. Pooh has his fair share of problems too–he can’t find his friends–so in spite of a looming deadline Christopher decides to head to the countryside and help Pooh solve this very bothersome mystery.

If you’re expecting an action-packed film here, think again. (Why would you expect an action-packed Winnie the Pooh movie in the first place?) Christopher Robin is gentle, subtle, and slow–yet the plot and its resolution are both surprisingly compelling. Christopher’s priorities are skewed and his tunnel vision wreaks havoc on his family–but Pooh and Friends never encourage him to drop all of his responsibilities. At one point Pooh does say that “doing Nothing sometimes leads to Something,” yet a few scenes later he encourages Christopher to “head north”–which, in the context of the story, means Christopher must take action if he wants to save his family and find peace and joy again.

But Christopher had to sit still long enough to figure out where exactly north was. It’s a pretty counter-cultural message in our fast-paced, achievement-obsessed society.

The toys were so precious and lifelike, a perfect blend of the original illustrations and the old Disney cartoons. Jim Cummings, who’s voiced Pooh and Tigger for decades, played them again for this movie. Tigger got to sing his Wonderful-Thing-About-Tiggers song, while Pooh tugged at all the right heartstrings with his gentle, innocent wisdom. Roo and Piglet were especially adorable. Peter Capaldi and Toby Jones did the voices of Rabbit and Owl respectively, which explains my giddy grins whenever they showed up, heehee. Besides Pooh, Eeyore was definitely my favorite–so hysterical with his exaggerated pessimism. Kanga got the least amount of screen time, but what I saw of her was lovely.

As for the human characters…Ewan Macgregor did such a good job as Christopher! Hayley Atwell, who played his wife Evelyn, was absolutely wonderful and queenly and awesome as ever. Their daughter Madeline, played by Brontë Carmichael, reminded me a lot of Little Christopher Robin himself, even down to her outfit. And in another hilarious nod to British TV for me, Mark Gatiss played Christopher Robin’s boss Winslow (AKA “the Woozle). I almost laughed out loud when I first saw him.

So in conclusion: if you’d like to finish out your summer with a heartwarming, pretty-much-perfect story, I highly recommend Christopher Robin. We could all use a little encouragement from the Hundred Acre Wood to slow down, take a deep breath…and head north.

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