There’s an old saying that goes , “You can’t go home again,” but that didn’t stop Disney from trying with Christopher Robin, the live-action film based on A.A. Milne’s classic Winnie the Pooh book series. The movie asks its audience to take a trip back to a time before your childhood was swallowed up by student loans, jobs to pay the rent, and other grown up things. But is the destination worth the journey?
The film opens up at a young Christopher Robin’s going away party in the Hundred Acre Woods, the magical land where Christopher’s friends Winnie the Pooh (voiced by Jim Cummings), Tigger, Piglet, Eyeore, and others live. The gang is celebrating their friendship with Christopher before his parents ship him off to boarding school and away from the magical door that links Pooh’s world to his.
The analogy of losing one’s childhood is driven home in a montage (because there’s always a montage) of Christopher’s slow march to adulthood. There’s the mean boarding school teacher, the death of his father (and the obligatory “You’re the man of the house now” line), fighting on the front lines of World War II, Christopher meeting his future wife Evelyn (Hayley Atwell), the birth of their daughter (Bronte Carmichael), and so on.
With the montage out of the way, a middle-age Christopher (Ewan McGregor) is a beleaguered company man toiling away at at Winslow’s Luggage. Times are hard following the war and the wealthy just aren’t going on vacations anymore, which means fewer sales of Winslow’s signature product.
Christopher’s boss, the self-involved son of the company’s owner, tells Christopher that the company must cut expenses by 20 percent or risk massive layoffs. He demands Christopher work through the weekend to come up with a plan, causing Christopher to skip out on a family getaway for the umpteenth time.
It’s hard not to feel bad for adult Christopher Robin. On the one hand, Christopher’s priorities are so out of whack that his wife tacitly suggests a trial separation due to his absenteeism. On the other, his close-knit direct reports – including a brotha with a perm more depressing than Eyeore – will lose their livelihoods in a blink of an eye.However, that fact is never mentioned to Christopher’s family, something I imagine would have garnered him more understanding from his wife. But the audience is basically asked to ignore this glaring fact so that the story can progress forward. I guess.
Somehow the magical door to the Hundred Acre Woods reappears, Winnie the Pooh passes through into London – a place where stuffed animals do are not supposed to talk – and the other stuffed animal friends eventually follow. Christopher reconnects with his childhood and comes to realize that the most important things in life are family and being happy, not work and deadlines. More amazingly, Winnie hasn’t developed diabetes despite decades of gluttonous honey consumption.
Christopher Robin works best when highlighting the conflict we all go through as we grow up and lose touch with the child we used to be. The film also does a fantastic job of juxtaposing the reality of our past with that of our current.
For example, Christopher’s grown up London is full of muted greys and dull browns compared to the vibrant colors of magical Hundred Acre Woods. It clearly reminds the audience that the children we were are still within us, deserving of all the love and happiness this world has to offer.
But the film falters when it tries to tell a cohesive story with a clear mission. Parts of the film dragged because some scenes didn’t seem to serve any purpose other than as reminders that Winnie & Co. are just so adorable. However, some of those scenes did reinforce that Eyeore really needs to speak to a professional regarding his chronic depression. Seriously, he needs help.
Al-in-all, Christopher Robin is cute enough to see alone or with kids (they’ll love it) at a matinee. But you’ll probably want to skip the full-price showings.
You can join Christopher Robin, Pooh and the rest of the Hundred Acre Woods in this tale by Disney now in theatres.