'Christopher Robin' movie review: An endearing film about the child inside each of us
Inspired by the story of beloved teddy bear, Winnie-the-Pooh, Christopher Robin is the kind of Disney adaptation that is bound to bring a feeling of warmth to your heart. Simple, endearing and tinged
Inspired by the story of beloved teddy bear, Winnie-the-Pooh, Christopher Robin is the kind of Disney adaptation that is bound to bring a feeling of warmth to your heart. Simple, endearing and tinged with moments of light sadness, the film’s message is clear: never lose touch with your inner child. Marc Forster handles the early montages of Christopher Robin rather deftly. In a matter of a few minutes, we see the titular character transform from a boy of wondrous imagination at the centre of his furry friends’ world to a man who inadvertently neglects his doting family for the demands of his job. The stuffed toy friends of his youth – Winnie-the-Pooh (or Pooh Bear), Tigger, Eeyore, Piglet, Rabbit, Kanga, Roo, and Owl – have been forgotten after his move to boarding school. All of them wait patiently for Christopher’s return, but none more than his simple-minded and honey-obsessed buddy, Pooh.
After his going away party in the Hundred Acre Wood, Christopher promises a dejected Pooh that he will return someday soon, and that he will always remember him fondly. But as the years pass and life catches up, his priorities change. Pooh and the others are no longer in his thoughts. Christopher serves in World War II, leaving his pregnant wife behind in London.
After his return, he finds work in the efficiency department of a luggage company. Finding little or no time to spend at home, he convinces himself that he is working extra hard to provide for his family’s future. He is forced to cancel a trip to the country with his wife and child on account of work. As soon as they leave, Christopher runs into Pooh on the park bench outside his place; the latter, having stumbled into London accidentally, in search of his friends.
The first half — especially in the extended moments and conversations between Christopher and Pooh — makes for strong viewing. To witness Christopher try and explain his situation to his simpleton friend of old, and to see Winnie not completely understand the nuances or reality of being a grown up, is touching beyond words. Christopher’s guilt, which is given genuine credence by a noteworthy performance from Ewan McGregor, is another highpoint of the film. The story works easily as a metaphor for finding joy and beauty in the small things. It encourages the viewer not to lose touch with that child inside you. The film makes a strong case for not changing one’s basic makeup — age, experience, and maturity, notwithstanding.
The second half of Christopher Robin, which focuses on the adventure of reuniting Pooh with the rest of the group, isn’t as effective or interesting as its preceding part. The subtle melancholia that lingers and adds to character development in the first hour of the story gives way to action and comedy in the last forty minutes. Not that the action sequences and humour are bad, they just fail to live up to the sensitivity and depth achieved at the halfway point in the narrative.
Other superior aspects include the brief exchanges between an adult Christopher and his young daughter, Madeline. Before he tells her he can’t make it to the country cottage over the weekend, he quotes his exploitative boss by saying, “Nothing can come of nothing.” He encourages her to spend her time usefully by reading or doing something constructive, as opposed to playing with a box of her father’s childhood belongings. The look on Madeline’s face as she realises that her father is no longer in touch with the kid inside him, is a telling moment early on.
Christopher’s guilt builds and builds as he tries convincing his inner self that fun, joy, and play, are stumbling blocks in the life of a grown up. All in all, Christopher Robin, is a sensitive tale of hanging on to that child-like imagination and deriving beauty and happiness from life’s simplest pleasures. Winnie-the-pooh’s philosophy of existence may appear, for all intents and purposes, too basic, but it is only through such a philosophy that one can experience the wonder that is life.