I have a confession to make. I was never a big Winnie the Pooh fan. Growing up, I preferred my cartoons a little more action-oriented than the sugary sweet ways of A.A. Milne’s famous characters. So I went into the screening for Disney’s new take on the material with relatively low expectations. And it’s safe to say that I’m a convert. Much like the titular character in this film, Christopher Robin brings out the inner kid in you and fills you with delight for the characters all over again.
Perhaps it was silly for me to have doubted Disney who, A Wrinkle in Time aside, has produced a string of excellent films. Despite that already high bar, Christopher Robin could have exceeded that and raised expectations for what a children’s movie should be even further. What got me the most is how excellently writers Alex Ross Perry and Allison Schroeder have crafted a world here that is quite mature and relatable to adults.
While this features the same beloved stuffed animals you grew up with as a child, it’s also a strong story about an adult Christopher Robin (Ewan McGregor) that after a string of harsh experiences, including losing a parent early and having survived World War 2, has forgotten how to have fun. Throw in the challenges of a stressful job and having difficulties in his relationship with wife Evelyn (Hayley Atwell) and daughter Madeline (Bonte Carmichael). It’s a story that has been told many years ago in Steven Spielberg’s Hook, but in a far more emotional and mature way here which genuinely makes you connect with its characters in incredible ways.
It’s not just Christopher Robin who has grown up though, as the stuffed friends also have to deal with some severe problems, including a world that has become a lot emptier for them without Christopher Robin. It’s a story that pulls on your heartstrings with its motion as much as it delivers on bubbly personality and some genuinely wild laugh out loud moments. It’s something which Disney seems to have learnt from their Pixar counterparts here, who have for years been making animated kids movies with mature themes and they do an expert job in replicating much of that same magic here.
However, that is not to say that the magic of Pooh and his friends have been lost in any way, as it serves only to heighten their playful innocence. It leads to comedic moments when an older and more sensible Christopher Robin has to learn how to deal with his cuddly friend’s naiveté all over again. It’s a beautiful collision of two worlds which director Marc Forster plays on incredibly well. He brings out the full extent of both in not hiding away from some of Christopher Robin’s harsh realities and predicament, but also channelling his inner kid and giving Pooh and friends many opportunities to show off their full personalities. This is especially true when we get to see how the stuffed animals relate to the real world with a sense of wonder and curiosity that you would expect from an innocent child. It’s a marvel how they’ve infused such heart into this movie.
It’s also should go without mentioning that to bring a move like this to life takes some remarkable visual effects. It doesn’t try to cover the fact that all the citizens of the hundred acre woods are stuffed animals and they not only look like it, but move like it as well, while still being incredibly expressive at the same time. The voice cast of Jim Cummings (Winnie the Pooh, Tigger), Nick Mohammed (Piglet), Toby Jones (Owl), Brad Garrett (Eeyore), Peter Capaldi (Rabbit), Sophie Okonedo (Kanga) and Sara Sheen (Roo) is also to thank here as they indeed do bring all the characters to life in ways that you would expect and exhibit the full personalities of each of them.
If there is any criticism that I can give the movie, it’s that the whole predicament that Christopher Robin finds himself in at work has been overplayed and they could’ve used the intensity of his time at war to more effect. This is nit-picking though at what is a remarkable story stuffed with heart and purpose throughout its running time.
Disney has captured the charm and character of A. A. Milne’s characters while crafting a unique and original story that not only bringing them to life, but enhances them even further. This is a film that will delight every member of the family and probably leave you falling in love with the characters all over again.
Last Updated: August 3, 2018