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‘Christopher Robin’: A movie review

christopher robin theatrical release poster
Courtesy of Wikipedia
christopher robin theatrical release poster

“Christopher Robin” is the latest chapter in the Winnie the Pooh franchise, yet it feels almost like an entirely different series in itself.

For those who are familiar with the Winnie the Pooh movie series, “Christopher Robin” begins almost immediately after the events of “Pooh’s Grand Adventure: The Search for Christopher Robin.” It quickly goes from the last moments of Christopher Robin’s childhood, to him as a young man in love, drafted into World War II and finally to him as a middle-aged workaholic. As Christopher Robin begins to alienate himself from his wife and daughter through working non-stop, the characters from “the Hundred Acre Wood” appear to him, feeling as though they are on a mission to help him.

I grew up a Winnie the Pooh fan; in fact, my first stuffed animal was a Winnie the Pooh, and this movie felt very personal. I saw many aspects of myself in Christopher Robin, as I’m sure many people will. We almost all had such vivid imaginations growing up, that were gradually suppressed with age. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though. As we grow older, the world becomes a lot less mysterious to us, and we are able to understand it better. Yet the movie does highlight the unfortunate reality that even though we understand the world better as adults, our lack of curiosity can (and has) caused many of us to have become duller than our adolescent selves.

While I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, if you’re not familiar with Winnie the Pooh or if you didn’t grow up with the series, this movie probably won’t be as interesting for you. Not to say that a person who is not a fan of Winnie the Pooh can’t enjoy this movie, but it won’t mean as much to them as it would to someone who grew up with Winnie the Pooh. I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing for the film as a whole however. When you have a franchise like Winnie the Pooh that is over 92 years old (three years older than the first Popeye comic), then you’re going to have a fanbase that values these movies more than those without a connection, and I think that the movie played to that fanbase really well.

One of the problems that the film has is that while it introduces a lot of the stuffed animals from “the Hundred Acre Woods”, it gives ample amount of screentime to only about three of those characters, while Rabbit, Owl and a few other characters really lack any meaningful screen time. I understand that a movie aimed at children needs to be relatively short, but it would only have added to the film to have had each character have their little moment to shine. 

The acting in this movie is fair. Nothing groundbreaking, but it doesn’t need to be. This isn’t some Oscar-bait movie that is supposed to contain the role of a lifetime. This is a simple children’s story about the value of staying young at heart. That being said, Ewan McGregor had a fun performance in the movie. He acts better than I think most people would act in a children’s movie where a person’s old childhood stuffed animals come to life and begin interacting with that person. His role was sincere and over all it was really quite enjoyable.

While no performance was fantastic, the best performance in the movie comes from Bronte Carmichael who played Christopher’s daughter Madeline Robin. She is fun and she helps bring a child’s perspective and a certain innocence to the movie. Furthermore, she reacts to the whole situation the way that I think most children would act if they actually found themselves in a fantastical situation like this. Her voice and facial expressions didn’t question the reality of the situation, she believed what she saw and reacted to it in the most sincere childlike way that I could have imagined.

This is not a spoiler, but one thing that the movie implied that it was going to have but did not deliver on was the appearance of an actual Heffalump and Woozle. The movie implied at several instances that Christopher Robin was going to stumble upon at least one Heffalump and/or Woozle, but that didn’t happen — honestly, the kid inside of me found that pretty disappointing.

Another disappointing aspect came from the missed opportunities in the film to pay homage to the original animated movies and books. A particularly upsetting shot that comes to mind is Robin and Pooh’s visit to their favorite tree, which any fan will be able to recall well. The tree is supposed to be a large tree that could easily hold the weight of a six year old child, yet the one that Christopher and Pooh go to is like the most flimsy tree in the world that probably couldn’t even hold a bird’s nest. I know this is a minor detail to be upset about in a movie, but given the nostalgia I have about this franchise, I think I have the right to be subjective. On that note, another gripe I have with the movie is the absence of the character Gopher. Once again, this really didn’t ruin my experience watching the film, but given Gopher’s absence from Winnie the Pooh canon (if that’s a thing) since 1999, it would have been a fun place to reintroduce the character, even if only for a cameo.

Other than my nitpicking, I do think that the movie has some legitimate problems. Christopher Robin flows well until the third act, when the film begins to feel rushed and chaotic, ironically matching the third act’s tone — yet I doubt that this was intentional. In fact, it feels as though the writers just needed a way to end the movie.

In sum, Christopher Robin is a fun and enjoyable movie, but one that fans of the Winnie the Pooh franchise will almost certainly enjoy more than those who didn’t grow up with the series. I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, but there were elements that seemed rushed and could have been better finalized. Despite my enjoyment of the movie, I don’t find myself yearning to watch it again. I  am left wondering how I would feel growing up with this movie. Maybe that’s how Winnie the Pooh has managed to stay so popular all of these years: through nostalgia. This connects to what I said earlier about this movie being really aimed more at fans of the franchise. All of that being said, I enjoyed this movie and I would recommend this movie to anyone who is a fan of the franchise. I give Christopher Robin a 7/10.

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