Within Disney’s (money grab) attempt to revamp every animated classic into the live-action genre, we have a lovely little gem in “Christopher Robin.” As expected, it’s a cookie-cutter film that checks off the right boxes in family-friendly entertainment, as Winnie the Pooh (voiced nostalgically by Jim Cummings) pursues an adult Christopher Robin (Ewan McGregor) to convince him that “doing nothing can lead to the best somethings.”
Christopher Robin already has no time for his wife (Hayley Atwell) or young daughter (Bronte Carmichael), and when he is forced to abandon them for a weekend, it’s up to Pooh and the other inhabitants of the Hundred Acre Wood to bring him to his senses (albeit, indirectly). Pooh has no idea that Christopher has grown up until he meets him – and even then doesn’t understand concepts of business and a hectic work life. The concepts he does understand: family importance and relaxation. As Christopher bustles about and ignores Pooh’s pleas for honey and red balloons, he is given a taste of childhood innocence and imagination. Furthermore, he realizes that these can mix with professional life and allow him to perform better (both professionally and personally).
When Pooh first appears, Christopher is forced to look after him as a parent would look after a toddler. A slightly laborious opening sequence tells us that Christopher fought in one of the World Wars (it’s not specific as to which one, and this movie focuses on the fictional Christopher Robin, not the historical one), so he never had the opportunity to watch his daughter grow up as a toddler. Along comes Pooh; making messes on the kitchen table, clumsily climbing shelves, and wanting every possible joyous attraction that he lays his beady eyes on. Though Christopher doesn’t necessarily teach Pooh the importance of waiting for things, Pooh does teach Christopher the beauty of innocence and imagination in a packed life.
This packed life is beautifully complemented by the pale color palette, which is persistent throughout the whole film. The streets of London are grey and foggy, the costume design is bland; even the usually colorful animals are muted slightly to give the movie a realistic edge. It’s not forced darkness by any stretch of the imagination; rather, it’s a natural blend of childish games and strenuous adulthood. Humor exists within these images, whether it’s subtle as Pooh sits across from Christopher Robin in an “occupied” train car, or abrupt as Tigger (also voiced by Jim Cummings) ricochets himself around crowded streets.
Aside from Cummings doing the memorable voices for both Pooh and Tigger, I must briefly say: hats off to Ewan McGregor for expressing emotional range and depth when he’s essentially dealing with stuffed animals enhanced by CGI.
Though some vocal talents deserved more time (the brilliant Peter Capaldi voicing Rabbit, for example) and the whole execution is edited to make this film feel longer than it is, “Christopher Robin” is an honest Disney recreation of timeless characters without trying to be some grand spectacle.