It’s kind of remarkable when you think about the amount of properties that Disney has the rights to. Walt Disney himself didn’t amass a lot of them in his day but the company strategy is most certainly focused on gathering the highest amount of intellectual properties under the same castle roof as possible. They own Pixar, Marvel, And Star Wars out right. And among their first acquisitions were the rights for the film versions of Mary Poppins and Winnie the Pooh. Both of these properties are receiving sequels this year with the latter coming out today.
I had a few preconceptions going into Christopher Robin, mostly because of last year’s film called Goodbye, Christopher Robin, which was a melancholy adaptation of the life of the author of the original books of Winnie the Pooh, A. A. Milne. The original stories were based on imaginary adventures that he and his son had. The sons name is Christopher Robin. So when I saw the trailer for Disney’s Christopher Robin movie I assumed it would be in the same vein: a slight re-imagining of the adult years of the real life Christopher Robin. However, I was completely mistaken. The film still exists in the imaginary world where Christopher Robin is a normal boy who has grand adventures, but his father never wrote down those stories. It is a literal sequel to the old Winnie the Pooh film, albeit a live action one with remarkable special-effects.
Here is the plot synopsis:
Christopher Robin — now a family man living in London — receives a surprise visit from his old childhood pal, Winnie-the-Pooh. With Christopher’s help, Pooh embarks on a journey to find his friends — Tigger, Eeyore, Owl, Piglet, Rabbit, Kanga and Roo. Once reunited, the lovable bear and the gang travel to the big city to help Christopher rediscover the joy of life.
There is much to love about this film. The acting is quite good. Ewen McGregor provides a wonderful performance as the lead character. His mannerisms are very nuanced which allows the audience to genuinely see the conflict within him as he tries to do what he thinks is right. Haley Atwell also brings a subtlety to her character that few actresses are capable of.
The animated characters’ voices are much better than I expected they would be. There are several substitutions in who is providing the vocal performances for the beloved crew. They thankfully kept Pooh’s and Tigger’s voices the same, but Eeyore is no longer Peter Cullen (the voice of Optimus Prime). That change was quite noticeable in the trailer, but I’m happy to report that I got used to it quite quickly and Eeyore ended up being my favorite performance of the animals.
The score here is a nice mix of old and new and I found most of it quite moving. It is currently among my favorite scores of the year.
Another place it shines is in its direction by Marc Forster. He added nuance and simplicity that brought out the themes of the film brilliantly. The script was a bit too Disnified, especially the ending, and I think without Forster’s direction it could have been two hours of little more than empty calories.
If the film does have one problem it’s that the climax doesn’t resonate emotionally like it could have. Again, I blame this on Disney’s script department: outside of their animated features of recent years, they simply don’t know how to make an emotionally impactful third act.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Christopher Robin is a pretty good movie. It has brilliant acting, animation, voice work, and direction, despite having an uninspired third act.