Christopher Robin is a sweet and sentimental return to the Hundred Acre Wood
The timelessness of Disney animation can almost always be represented by the endurance of the Winnie the Pooh series and its effect on our respective childhoods. It’s this shared experience that connects audiences to the title character in Christopher Robin, and makes his journey so relatable to all ages.
The film follows Christopher Robin (played by Ewan McGregor) as he grows up and far away from his enchanted play area of the Hundred Acre Wood. As revealed in the film’s opening montage, Christopher goes through the loss of his father, forcing him to grow up early and become the “man of the house,” then falls in love with Evelyn (Hayley Atwell), and the. Is promptly shipped off to fight in World War I, effectively missing the early childhood of his daughter Madeline (Bronte Carmichael). These life events push Christopher to become devoted to his work, never giving in to time for play with his family, and never again thinking about his childhood friends, the enchanted stuffed animals and woodland creatures of the Hundred Acre Wood.
When Christopher’s hard-nosed boss demands he cancel a family trip to focus on creating a budget to save his employees jobs, a wandering Winnie the Pooh (voiced once again by Jim Cummings – to read my interview with him click here) finds himself reunited with Christopher in London and asks for his grown up playmate to return to the Hundred Acre Wood to help find the other friends who have gone mysteriously missing.
McGregor acts the part perfectly as being just the right mix of a no-fun adult and an endearing dreamer waiting to come back out. Even during moments of extreme curmudgeon-iness, it’s near impossible to vilify him, since he represents so well the good man put in the hard position of abandoning what makes him happy in exchange for his (perceived) survival.
The stars of the show remain Pooh and his friends, brought to life now by CGI, but very much the same characters we remember. Special attention is paid to Pooh, of course, and the infinitely dour stuffed donkey, Eeyore (voiced by Brad Garrett). Pooh’s constant logic gaps are a wonderful and fun running gag throughout the film (“People say nothing is impossible, but I do nothing everyday”), as are his childlike mispronunciations (“Efficiency” becomes “A fish in the sea”). His naïveté and his endearing lack of agency play stark contrast to the now grown up and stressed out Christopher Robin, who wrestles with the fact that his childhood teddy bear is come back, walking and talking.
The film is overall sweet and perfectly sentimental, as a story of regaining childhood imagination should be. The message is simple and so the solution, while meandering and climactic, is also simple: time for play with family is the most important and efficient aspect of a good life. It’s schmaltziness is done away by the absolute joy of the film’s enchanted characters and the connections we already have to them. For children, it’s another romp with Winnie the Pooh and friends; for parents, it’s a reminder to indulge in the imagination of childhood. A message that has always been at the center of a Disney film. Disney’s Christopher Robin is now in theaters!