Christopher Robin Review – IGN

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Christopher Robin Review – IGN



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Winnie the Pooh reunites with an adult Christopher Robin in a film that plays more like a cynical corporate product than a love letter to A.A. Milne.

When artists worry about what big corporations might do after they buy the rights to their creations, Disney’s Christopher Robin is exactly what they’re worried about. This live-action feature, directed by Marc Forster (Finding Neverland), takes the beautiful and distinctive creations of A.A. Milne and shoehorns them into the screenwriting skeleton of The Shaggy Dog, The Santa Clause and Nine Lives, even though that makes no sense for the characters.

Ewan McGregor stars as Christopher Robin, who as a boy had many adventures with the anthropomorphic animals and toys in The Hundred Acre Wood. There was Winnie the Pooh (voiced by Jim Cummings), a good-hearted and silly teddy bear, Tigger (Cummings again), a rambunctious toy tiger, and Eeyore (Brad Garrett), an extremely depressed donkey. There were also a bunch of other characters but the movie barely does anything with them.

The original Winnie the Pooh stories ended with Christopher Robin growing up and leaving his childlike fantasy world behind, as beautiful and as bittersweet a metaphor for coming-of-age as any yet written. But in Disney’s Christopher Robin that’s not good enough, so we watch the title character grow up and turn into the worst kind of creature imaginable – a father with a job – who learns that growing up sucks after Winnie the Pooh comes to visit him in London.

This is, of course, the worst possible time for Pooh to come calling, because Christopher Robin has a BIG BUSINESS MEETING and has to stay home from work while his family is on holiday. Naturally, this is the worst possible thing that could happen to this family, who live in nearly irrevocable depression because Christopher Robin has a job. His wife, Evelyn (Hayley Atwell), bemoans that he’s missing out on what’s really important by staying home, arguing that “This weekend is your life.”

It’s an argument that might make sense if the movie hadn’t made it abundantly clear that if Christopher Robin doesn’t work this weekend, specifically, then a lot of other people will lose their jobs. He isn’t working because he’s selfish. He’s working because he’s entirely selfless. And yet his family gives him a guilt trip about it anyway. Christopher Robin can’t be portrayed as a genuinely bad person, so he needs relatable motivations. But the whole “deadbeat dad” story structure doesn’t work unless he’s actually a deadbeat. So the movie falls apart in the first couple of scenes.

What follows are Christopher Robin’s adventures with Pooh, who wrecks the house and begs Christopher Robin to help find his missing friends, which brings our hero back to The Hundred Acre Wood. If that sounds entertaining or amusing, you’d be wrong, because Disney’s Christopher Robin is filmed with all the dreary and depressive atmosphere usually relegated to grim World War II dramas about how horrible life was during the Blitz. Watching Pooh wander helplessly through the woods, wondering aloud why his friends have abandoned him, isn’t cute. It’s an existential horror show.

The voice cast brings the animals of The Hundred Acre Wood to life, and does a better job than the animators, who make these toy creatures look a little too real. It shouldn’t be this easy to mistake Winnie the Pooh and Tigger for demons in ill-fitting costumes, but that’s what we’ve got anyway. Ewan McGregor does an impressive job acting opposite these CGI creations, but poor Hayley Atwell is wasted as a character whose sole responsibility is to disapprove of her husband.

The makers of Disney’s Christopher Robin care so little about Evelyn Robin that they can’t even be bothered to give her a personality of her own. When Evelyn tells her daughter to go out and play, she can’t come up with any meaningful advice on how to do it. So she tells her daughter to do whatever Christopher Robin would have done when he was a child. Evelyn has no adventures of her own so she has to piggyback off of her husband’s more interesting life. She only has his adventures, and only if he elects to have them.

Perhaps the strangest conceit of Disney’s Christopher Robin is that Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore and their ilk aren’t figments of Christopher Robin’s imagination. It would make sense if they were, because that was the point of Winnie the Pooh to begin with, but early in the film Londoners can hear Pooh talk and see him move. And if they’re real, the whole story falls apart again because it makes Christopher Robin seem cruelly neglectful to forget about them in the first place.

And in the end, that conceit torpedoes the entire premise of A.A. Milne’s creation. Childhood was to be treasured, but it wasn’t supposed to be permanent. The point of Disney’s Christopher Robin is that childhood fantasy literally has more value than anything else – within the movie, and within the Disney corporate structure – which is basically a stiff middle finger in the face of the creator of the characters who we’re supposed to be celebrating.

The Verdict

Disney’s Christopher Robin is a formulaic and depressing motion picture that takes meaningful characters and strips them of their reason to exist. The story doesn’t make sense on the surface or even in its subtext, and although it may be possible to write it off it as just another riff on the Deadbeat Dad family movie genre, it’s not even an entertaining one of those.



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