There are some things worth forgiving when enjoying a delightful time at the movies and that’s the case when experiencing “Christopher Robin.” Sure some things may anger the kid in you, and it’s certainly a bloated film that could have shaved about 20 minutes off its runtime. I’ll also admit, a full movie with our furry friends probably would have been much better but “Christopher Robin” succeeds as an enjoyable family outing. Director Marc Forster makes the film much more cinematic than anticipated which results in an artistic interpretation of our childhood memories.
“Christopher Robin,” tells the story of a working-class, adult version of Christopher Robin, the boy we remember spending day after day with our loveable gang of animals in “The Hundred Acre Woods.” When he encounters his childhood friend Winnie-the-Pooh, the two set off an adventure to find their friends and rediscover the joys of life.
Forster, who directed the Oscar-nominated “Finding Neverland” inserts interesting choices in which to tell his story. Playing as if the film were shot by Emmanuel Lubezki with outtakes from Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life,” the soft sways through the forest and the time in which we spend with our stuffed friends is superb. On the other hand, the script doesn’t always put its best foot forward.
The script, blended with the minds of five writers: Alex Ross Perry, Oscar-winner Tom McCarthy (2015’s “Spotlight“), Oscar-nominee Allison Schroeder (2016’s “Hidden Figures“), Greg Brooker, and Mark Steven Johnson, invokes moments of a heartwarming display. However, it’s simple message about remembering what’s important in your life skews on the line of over-done melodrama. If you’ve seen 1991’s “Hook,” you’ll likely know this movie from front-to-back. It should be noted that the film does a solid job at setting up our story with an inventive storytelling technique and emotional beats that are reminiscent of “Up.” It’s also mystifying why they play with the reality vs. not addressing it head-on. It ends up creating the “Family Guy” formula, where some seem to see and hear it, but others don’t.
Ewan McGregor, who plays the adult Christopher Robin, serves his character well but just drives home that we are in need of seeing him in a more dynamic, engaging role, and fast. He’s much too talented to be regulated to the family section on Netflix. Looking at his repertoire that’s included “Moulin Rouge!,” “Trainspotting,” and “The Impossible,” McGregor can dominate a film intensely when handed the right material. His human co-stars, particularly Hayley Atwell as his neglected wife, are merely fine, when not serving cheesy dialogue.
The voice actors are the real highlights particularly Brad Garrett‘s Eeyore, which feels like the role he was born to play. Jim Cummings, who plays double duty between Pooh and the hyperactive Tigger, is sensationally apt. Nick Mohammed‘s Piglet pays excellent homage to the late John Fiedler, who I believe to be one of the most undervalued classic movie and voice actors of all-time. Peter Capaldi‘s Rabbit is a tad misplaced but weaves through the material well enough while Sophie Okonedo‘s Kanga is as perfect sounding in the movie as it seems on paper.
You may get flashbacks to “Where the Wild Things Are” at times (minus the marvelous feelings you had afterward), but the film finds victory in giving you warm feelings about and towards your family. I found myself thinking about the time I spend with my wife and children, analyzing its quantity versus quality. As soon as the credits ran, I jumped in my Uber, got home in a record 22 minutes, and hugged my daughter when I walked in (my son was already sleeping). Chalk up this feeling to cinematic manipulation; I’m okay with bending to the will of the Disney Corporation and getting some fuzzy feelings for 2 hours.
“Christopher Robin” is not perfect, far from it in fact. But the film is solid and competently made. Moments feel disappointingly scripted but are overall entertaining. The film will fall far from making an impact like the classic cartoons, or A.A. Milne book did. You can take the camera work of Matthias Koeningswieser and music of Jon Brion and Geoff Zanelli with you long after the credits roll. Look at the bright side…it’s leaps and bounds better than “Goodbye Christopher Robin.”
“Christopher Robin” is distributed by Walt Disney Pictures and opens in theaters on Aug. 3.