Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Movie Review: Christopher Robin

Christopher Robin *** / *****
Directed by: Marc Forster.
Written by: Alex Ross Perry and Allison Schroeder based on characters created by A.A. Milne and E.H. Shepard.
Starring: Ewan McGregor (Christopher Robin), Hayley Atwell (Evelyn), Bronte Carmichael (Madeline Robin), Jim Cummings (Winnie the Pooh / Tigger), Toby Jones (Owl), Peter Capaldi (Rabbit), Brad Garrett (Eeyore), Sophie Okonedo (Kanga), Nick Mohammed (Piglet), Wyatt Dean Hall (Roo), Mark Gatiss (Keith Winslow), Oliver Ford Davies (Old Man Winslow), Orton O'Brien (Young Christopher Robin).
Disney hasn’t really known what to do with Winnie the Pooh in recent years – an old childhood favorite property, with beloved characters that feels like it is out of another time and place, because of course, it is. Pooh and his friends live in an innocent world of childhood wonder and imagination, and they don’t much fit in with the frantic energy of today’s popular cartoons for children – even if when children do encounter these characters, they love them just as much as always (it’s a reminder that children don’t change, as much as the stuff adults think children like change). So it makes sense that in order to revive the franchise a little, they would make the nostalgic Christopher Robin – a film about an adult rediscovering his love for his childhood friends, because after all, Disney needs to bring in adults to a move like this, along with their children, in order to make money. That’s cynical, of course, but it’s also the truth – nostalgia is big right now with reboots of every piece of garbage culture we consumed as children making a comeback. At least in the case of Winnie the Pooh, the culture wasn’t – and isn’t - garbage.
After a brief interlude of Christopher Robin as a child, we see a montage as he grows up into Ewan McGregor, is sent to boarding school, goes off to war (we didn’t need a war scene with explosions in this film Disney), marries Evelyn (Hayley Atwell), and has a daughter of his own, Madeline (Bronte Carmichael), and gets a job at a boring luggage company. He hasn’t thought of Pooh and his old friends in years – because it appears like he hasn’t thought of anything except luggage in years – which is why his daughter barely knows him, and his marriage is on the rocks. Also on the rocks is the luggage company, and Christopher is told he has to work through the weekend to cut costs by 20%. This means yet another broken promise to his family – he was supposed to take them to the cottage for the weekend, but now they go alone.
Pooh and friends are still in the Hundred Acre Wood though – but one day, Pooh wakes up and everyone else is gone. Not knowing what else to do, he walks through the door Christopher Robin is known to come out of, and ends up in London – face-to-face with Christopher Robin. He has no time for Pooh, of course, but cannot get rid of him that easily. It will require a trip to the very same cottage his family is at – and a trip through the door himself, to meet all his old friends.
The film essentially tries to do the same thing that Steven Spielberg attempted with Hook – put the adult version of child character back in the fantasy world in order to learn something about being an adult. If Spielberg couldn’t really pull off the trick with Hook, you can guess how Marc Forster (Finding Neverland) fares. It’s not that Christopher Robin is a bad film – it isn’t. For the most part, its fun and charming – and the childhood characters are every bit as charming as you remember, especially for people like me who have been nicknamed Eeyore for years, and so it’s with delight I report that our beloved donkey gets all the best lines. McGregor is quite good in the film – he interacts with the CGI creations convincingly, and his transformation from stick in the mud to fun loving is convincing. Even better is Bronte Carmichael, as his delightful daughter Madeline. I wanted her to interact with the characters more – children are better at interacting with talking stuffed animals – but when she does, she is quite good. Poor Hayley Atwell is way overqualified for her role – but I guess she does it as good as it can be.
Throughout the film though, I couldn’t help but wonder if we really needed a film about how a grown man has to embrace the things he loved when he was younger to be a better adult. If anything, in our culture has the opposite problem – people need to let go of what they loved in the past, or at the very least, let go of their ideas of it, and let it breath and become something new (looking you The Last Jedi haters). The film feels like a celebration of overgrown man children that I had trouble embracing.
Still, though, for what the film is, it is quite good – and its good for children, if for no other reason than perhaps they can fall in love with these characters as well, and visit their older, better adventures. Especially Eeyore.

No comments:

Post a Comment