Christopher Robin

Christopher Robin
Christopher Robin
Directed by Marc Forster
Starring Ewan McGregor, Hayley Atwell, Jim Cummings and Brad Garrett
In UK Cinemas August 17th, 2018

by Alex Plant

Christopher Robin is the latest in Disney’s current wave of live-action reimaginings of their vast library of animated classics. Rather than a literal adaptation of the animation, like 2017’s Beauty and The Beast, Marc Forster’s film takes the commendable route of trying to tell a new story, but much like 2014’s Maleficent, it only achieves partial success.

Set in post-WWII Britain, the titular Christopher (Ewan McGregor) has grown up to be an overworked, somewhat stuffy middle-manager at a London luggage company. Much to the chagrin of his wife Evelyn (Hayley Atwell) and their daughter, Madeline (Bronte Carmichael), Christopher must abandon his family holiday plans to work out how to shave 20% off his departmental budget, which leads to the sudden reappearance of a certain “silly old bear”, throwing his work/life balance into chaos.

The film unashamedly plies the audience with the sort of weaponised nostalgia that Disney has been so adept at administering recently, with the opening scene lifting moments directly from original author A. A. Milne’s final Winnie the Pooh story, The House at Pooh Corner to wonderful effect. Seeing Pooh, Tigger, Piglet et al throwing Christopher Robin a leaving party before he goes off to boarding school is joyous, with the design of the characters being a nigh-on perfect balance of the original illustrations and the more Disney-fied look most audiences are familiar with. However, it’s seeing them move not like animals, but like actual living stuffed toys that really tugs at the heartstrings.

Jim “The-Voice-of-your-Childhood” Cummings returns to the roles of both the hunny-hungry bear and the ever-energetic Tigger and is on such fine form that you find yourself eagerly awaiting Pooh’s return to the screen whenever the action switches to the human characters. That isn’t to suggest that McGregor doesn’t bring a respectable level of pathos to his role, but his performance doesn’t quite match the nuance of Robin Williams’ in the thematically similar Hook. It’s also a shame that Atwell, who has made a name for herself playing strong women in period pieces, doesn’t get slightly more to do. However, she and the supporting cast make the most out of the screen time that they get, with Mark Gatiss in particular delivering an enjoyably sneer-worthy turn as Christopher’s entitled boss.

If you thought that a film that features Heffalumps and Woozles but also scenes devoted to office politics and corporate restructuring might have a slightly uneven tone, then you’d be correct. However, it’s at its best when Pooh and the other stuffed animals interact with our world (with whimsically chaotic results), but there’s perhaps just a little too much time spent on Christopher reacquainting himself with the Hundred-Acre Wood, whilst all the real stakes are back in London or with his family. It doesn’t quite hit the same triumphant bear-in-the-big-city notes as Paddington, but there’s enough here for children and children-at-heart to leave smiling.



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