Released: 13th September
Seen: 1st September (Advance Screening Weekend)
Some of my fondest memories of childhood involve my grandmother. A genuinely lovely woman, she’s the kind of person who has always been there for me and this year she’s been there more than ever. A few weeks ago I was afflicted with a corneal ulcer, a dreadfully painful affliction that basically turned my left eye into a neverending source of agony. An optometrist told me to go see a specialist that was a half hour drive away, a drive I could not do because my eye was basically trying to violently stab me from the inside. Still, that specialist was needed and so I called my grandmother. My grandmother hates long drives, absolutely despises them and especially hates long drives in the rain and here I was asking her to take me for a long drive in the pouring rain, park in town and help me get to a specialist. The phone call lasted 2 minutes at most and within 15, she was outside my door waiting to take me to the doctor. To thank her for that, and a few other things she did to help while I was recovering, I took my grandmother to go see an advance screening of Christopher Robin. I tell you this not because I’m seeking sympathy (Though I won’t lie, I’d enjoy some) but to let you know the emotional bias that I now have attached to this film experience because I now associate it with my grandmother… and considering the film itself, that feels like an appropriate association.
Christopher Robin tells a story that is remarkably similar to the 1991 film Hook, except instead of being about Peter Pan it’s… well, you-know-who. Christopher (Played by Ewan McGregor) used to spend a lot of time playing in the Hundred Acre Wood as a child until the day he had to leave his friends and go off to boarding school… or boring school, as a certain silly old bear might call it. He grows up to become a successful businessman, working in the efficiency department at a luggage company. It’s a good job and allows him the chance to provide a home for his wife Evelyn (Played by Hayley Atwell) and his daughter Madeline (Played by Bronte Carmichael) but his devotion to his job keeps forcing him to miss out on moments of his daughters life, including the last holiday that she’ll have before she follows in her father’s footsteps and heads off to
boring boarding school. Due to an issue at work, Christopher Robin is forced to stay home while his wife and daughter go off to the cottage in the woods without him. When his old bear Winnie the Pooh turns up in London asking for Christopher Robin’s help to find his friends, Christopher has to decide if his family is more important than work.
If you ever wondered what would happen if someone took the idea of Hook and transplanted it into the sticky honey-scented world of A.A. Milne then this film provides the answer. Where this film deviates from the formula that Hook did so beautifully back in the 90’s is where Hook stays in Never Neverland, while Christopher Robin goes back and forth between London and the Hundred Acre Wood. It’s certainly interesting seeing an adult Christopher Robin running and playing in the Hundred Acre Wood, fighting wicked Heffalumps or Woozles (Things that, as I understand it, are very confuzled) but seeing Winnie the Pooh trying to navigate his way around London is just as adorable as one might expect. It’s an idea that I honestly wish they’d explored more. Several cute jokes are made where Winnie refuses to stop being polite and saying hello to people which genuinely scares them because they don’t think that a bear should talk, I wanted so many more moments like that. Heck, I’d happily take two hours of Tigger leaping about London station and being flabbergasted by all the non-bouncy things going in and out of the platforms. He’d also probably really like the red balloon that got a fair few good giggles out of everyone, including me and my grandmother.
The main group of characters, the tubby little cubby all stuffed with fluff variety, look absolutely adorable. They don’t have over the top facial features or overly expressive eyes, they look like children’s soft toys that just happened to come to life. You want to reach out and hug them tight until the stuffing comes out, maybe not all the stuffing but enough so that maybe they don’t get stuck as much when trying to go for honey. They are a perfect blend of the cartoon characters that Disney have branded so well and the original A.A. Milne designs. They feel so alive and adorable that you overlook the fact that Pooh barely opens his mouth when he talks. It’s attention to trying to have them react the way a soft toy might react, Pooh’s mouth isn’t that big so when he does do something truly expressive, a big proud smile or a worried look, it means more and get’s you right in the feels. I certainly noticed that every little smile that Winnie pulled got the entire audience to become and aw-dience… I have no regrets for that pun, literally none!.
The jokes in this movie are perfectly in line with the Disney version of Winnie the Pooh. He’s bright, eternally cheerful and his very little brain has an odd way of understanding a turn of phrase. He’s basically Drax without the violence, he takes things very literally. “People say nothing is impossible, but I do nothing every day” is one of the most perfect precious things that will always get a laugh and a smile. Every time there is a moment like that, no matter if you’re young or old, it’s going to get a smile out of you. There’s some pretty cute meta jokes in here too, and a lot of Eeyore being the most relatable character to ever exist. The charm and joy filling every line is just incredible, even things like watching Pooh play a game of “Name everything I see” is genuinely funny because he is the definition of innocence. It also helps that Christopher is so jaded that his reactions to Pooh being so playfully innocent are some genuinely hilarious bits of physical comedy.
Is the film perfect? Good god no. There are certainly some shots that don’t work, some of the voices of the characters feel a little off, the climax of just a little on the cheesy side and there are no Woozles to be seen anywhere in the film… but it doesn’t have to be perfect in order to be good. When the lights came on after the screening was done (And we saw the charming mid-credits scene that has Richard M. Sherman pop up for a very nice cameo) I looked to my grandmother and saw a big smile on her face. That’s what this film does so effortlessly, it puts a smile on your face. Take off your critical glasses for this one, call someone you love and offer to take them with you. This is a film to take the family to, take the people who you love and cherish who you want to share a few hours with just enjoying a sweet little movie about a silly old bear. The film might be tubby, a little chubby, and all stuffed with fluff… but it’s just lovely, and being just lovely is all that it needs to be.