Winnie-the-Pooh returns in gorgeous detail in this big-hearted ode to not taking life too seriously.
September 13, 2018
He's soft and cuddly, has a hankering for honey and hibernating, and believes that doing nothing leads to the very best something. With wisdom like that, he could be a wellness guru — but instead, Winnie-the-Pooh is a walking, talking teddy bear. There are many reasons to love the best-known inhabitant of the Hundred Acre Wood. Taking inspiration from a stuffed toy cherished by his son Christopher Robin, author A.A. Milne crafted the cute creature with ample affection, making him feel like the best friend that every kid always wanted. With dashings of black ink on white paper, illustrator E. H. Shepard also brought the bear to life with grace and care in drawings that felt like they could wander off the paper.
Thanks to an array of short films, features and television shows over the past six decades, Pooh did mosey beyond those pages. That said, he has never taken a stroll in quite the fashion seen in Christopher Robin. With director Marc Forster (World War Z) mixing live-action and CGI, Pooh is an adorable ball of fluff that couldn't look more realistic. He's covered with tufts of naturalistic fur that viewers will instantly want to run their fingers through and, thanks to special effects that give him a well-worn appearance, it looks like plenty of people already have. Courtesy of a script by Alex Ross Perry (Golden Exits), Tom McCarthy (Spotlight) and Allison Schroeder (Hidden Figures), Pooh is also actually dispensing wellness advice to a now-adult Christopher Robin (Ewan McGregor, charming even when he's haunted by stress). Indeed, if there's one thing that Christopher Robin takes seriously, it's the idea of not taking life too seriously.
In a movie with the sweetness of Pooh's preferred food — but a dose of melancholy too — the childhood character pops into Christopher Robin's life when he least expects it. (Not that anyone expects a living teddy bear to find them in a London garden, follow them home and start putting their sticky paws on everything.) It has been years since Christopher farewelled Pooh, with boarding school, the Second World War, and now work and his family all monopolising his attention instead. But trying to balance his personal and professional lives, or failing to, has left Christopher in a spot of bother. While his wife Evelyn (Hayley Atwell) and daughter Madeline (Bronte Carmichael) head out to the country, he's stuck at home alone working for a luggage company. Then Pooh shows up, searching for the missing Tigger, Piglet, Eeyore, Kanga, Roo, Owl and Rabbit, and making Christopher realise exactly what he's missing.
Much of Christopher Robin follows its two central characters as they roam around the Hundred Acre Wood. It's a hangout movie — viewers not only hang out with characters they love, but watch them hang out as well. While the drama about meeting work deadlines feels somewhat flimsy as a result, just soaking in the film's scenic surroundings and loveable figures offers enough to enjoy. Forster certainly thinks so, with the movie never as buoyant as when it's focusing firmly on Christopher Robin, Pooh and their green sanctuary. Intricate production design assists, ensuring that every swaying tree and meadow of grass is as eye-catching as a certain bear of very little brain.
As viewers rove their eyes over Christopher Robin's splendid sights, they're doing just what the film espouses: slowing down, enjoying the moment, and switching off from the hustle and bustle. Still, as you're clearing space in your head thanks to this nice little movie — and it's truly the epitome of nice, soothing, cosy and comfortable — you might notice a few familiar elements. Forster has dallied with a beloved childhood story before in Finding Neverland, while the idea of a fictional animal character coming to life smacks of Paddington and its sequel, and Hook told overworked men to reconsider their priorities more than two decades ago. You may also recall 2017's forgettable Goodbye Christopher Robin, but thankfully Christopher Robin doesn't underestimate its audience or smother anyone in treacly sentiment. In imagining a new adventure for Pooh and his human pal rather than revisiting their beginnings, the film simply wants viewers to delight in the big-hearted pleasures of its gorgeous world.
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