Movie Review: Christopher Robin Grows UpAug 03, 2018
Directed by: Marc Forster
Written by: Alex Ross Perry, Tom McCarthy
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Hayley Atwell, Bronte Carmichael, Jim Cummings, Brad Garrett
All Photos Courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures
“But, of course, it isn’t really goodbye, because the Forest will always be there…and anybody who is friendly with bears can find it.”
- Winnie the Pooh
The gentle wisdom of A.A. Milne’s beloved Winnie the Pooh arrives fresh and perfectly-timed in the form of Marc Forster’s Christopher Robin. Forster (Stranger Than Fiction, Finding Neverland, Quantum of Solace) and the House of Mouse deliver as perfect a family movie as we’ve seen in years. But make no mistake about it, Christopher Robin is also a soothing balm in a world that seems bent on angrily devouring itself. It’s impossible to read or watch a news story these days without being bludgeoned by angry supporters of every social cause, political party, or belief system. And as the days, weeks, and months pass their anger grows more and more irrational, publicly crucifying people for things they said or posted on social media when they were kids.
Insert pause to allow myself and everyone else to find their way into the refuge offered by Pooh and his friends in the Hundred Acre Wood. Take a deep breath…and listen for the voice of wisdom:
“I don’t feel very much like Pooh today,” said Pooh.
“There, there,” said Piglet. “I’ll bring you tea and honey until you do.”
That’s SO much better!
Disney has delivered a perfect complement to the June release of the Mr. Rogers documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor? Morgan Neville’s took audiences back to the 1960’s debut of the beloved show featuring a Presbyterian minister who taught children how to deal with the most challenging aspects of life. It reminded us that Mr. Rogers focused on kindness, gentleness, and treating children with the same respect and intelligence we direct toward adults. Christopher Robin is a much-needed reminder that the same things are true when it comes to helping adults remember there are solutions to life's problems far more satisfying than a rant on Facebook or Twitter.
Forster gives us a brief re-introduction to the residents of Milne’s Hundred Acre Wood. All the familiar faces are there: Winnie the Pooh and Tigger (both voiced by Jim Cummings), Eyore (voiced by Brad Garrett), Piglet (voiced by Nick Mohammed), Rabbit (voiced by Peter Capaldi), Kanga (voiced by Sophie Okonedo), Roo (voiced by Sara Sheen), and Owl (voiced by Toby Jones). They have gathered to bid farewell to Christopher Robin, who is being sent off to boarding school by his father. Though the scene is tinged with a layer of melancholy, there is still plenty of joy to be found because everyone expects that the friendships formed between Christopher and his Hundred Acre Wood friends will last forever. Oh…and there’s plenty of honey at the table as well.
But life takes a toll on Christopher Robin (Ewan McGregor) as he grows to adulthood. And he does eventually forget his friends. There are the bright moments: Christopher meets and marries Evelyn (Hayley Atwell) and they have a smart and lovely daughter, Madeline (Bronte Carmichael). But the toll of fighting in a world war and working under the authority of a soul-crushing “Woozle” at a luggage-making company take a heavy toll. Needless to say, at the moment of Christopher’s greatest crisis his old friends return to help him rediscover the things that indeed give life meaning.
Forster has crafted a story that can be appreciated and loved by adults and children alike. He’s aided by pitch-perfect performances from all his human actors. And with Jim Cummings, the original voice of the beloved bear, voicing Pooh and Tigger, this is a story that satisfies from beginning to end. It might even draw a few tears from those who remember the pure joy a honey-loving bear can bring to a world filled with superheroes and snap-of-the-finger universal devastation.
Or in the words of A.A. Milne, spoken through his most famous creation:
“You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.”