- Review by Oisín Walsh
Chirstopher Robin starts off at a slow pace. Following on from a brief moment where the inhabitants of the Hundred Acre Wood say goodbye to Christopher Robin, we see how he grows up through boarding school and lands himself in a dull and lifeless, if comfortable job as the efficiency manager at a luggage factory. Exciting. But when a situation arises at work, he has to deny himself a weekend away with his wife and daughter so that he may work to find a solution. Enter Pooh Bear, as he wakes up in The Hundred Acre Wood which has become a more misty and uninviting area. While Pooh searches for some honey he discovers that none of his friends can be found. He somehow manages to find himself in the real world and encounters the adult Christopher.
Ewan McGregor as the adult Christopher Robin plays his part well but he never steals the show, nor should he, because the best thing about the film is inevitably Winnie-The-Pooh. His simple if silly turns of phrase should never fail to bring a smile to your face and he is voiced perfectly by Jim Cummings. This can also be said for the other characters of the Hundred Acre Wood (a favourite being Eeyore, the gloomy toy donkey without a tail). Whether or not you are familiar with the stories by A.A. Milne and the illustrations of E.H. Sheperd, you will know these characters immediately and just as quickly love them.
The animation places the characters as the toy teddies they were inspired from with the exception of Rabbit and Owl who are of course inspired by the real life animals. While this may seem somewhat jarring at first, particularly if you are accustomed to the earlier Disney adaptions where they are hand-drawn, you become used to it after a short while. They appear like real living teddies and what I found most striking of all was how they appeared ever so slightly aged over the years, just as Christopher has gotten older. They look as if your childhood toys had been left sitting in a box in the attic for decades. It’s a small thing, but its effective and makes the animation work alongside the real world.
However, the plot is what lets the film down. Christopher Robin is having trouble at work and at home. He has to work out how to save the company money or he will be forced to let go much of his staff. He has become neglectful of his family but can’t see it. So while Christopher goes to return Pooh to The Hundred Acre Wood he is also working to save the company. The plot serves its function, our hero is stressed and needs to be able to see the joyous things in life, but the return of Pooh helps him find a resolution and restore his once happy self. It is not very inspired or original; maybe it doesn’t need to be. The final message is just that Christopher Robin should spend more time with his family than at work. It’s just not very special and I doubt it holds much appeal for children. Most of the joy to be found in the film is in reiterations of quotes from the original stories and poems. A favourite of mine being “People say nothing is impossible, but I do nothing every day”. The narrative almost serves as a vehicle to deliver these familiar phrases, which is not the worst thing it could be.
I enjoyed this film a lot and I would not say I was disappointed only that I was not amazed by the final product. I don’t believe it achieved a level of excellence that the characters of the film can certainly deliver on. I was emotional a lot as the film played out but it slows down into dull moments too often for it to be truly wonderful. Winnie-The-Pooh and Christopher Robin and the other inhabitants of The Hundred Acre Wood are timeless, but this movie won’t be. Disney can do better, and Winnie-The-Pooh deserves better.