★ ★ ★ ☆
“Don’t go getting all grown up on us.“ That’s the sentiment that hangs over “Christopher Robin,” a new film about regaining an intangible starring Ewan McGregor and Winnie the Pooh (voice of Jim Cummings), like a shroud.
The movie begins with 10-year-old Christopher Robin‘s going away party, just before he leaves for boarding school. His playmates, Piglet (voice of Nick Mohammed), Eeyore (Brad Garrett), Tigger (Cummings again), Owl (Toby Jones), Rabbit (Peter Capaldi), Kanga (Sophie Okonedo) and the honey loving bear have gathered to see him off from 100 Acre Woods, their home and Christopher’s escape from real life.
“I will never forget you Pooh,“ Christopher says, “even if I live to be 100 years old.“
But of course he does.
Like the quickly flipped pages of a story park the film rockets through Christopher’s boarding school, marriage, efforts in WWII and his difficulties after the war. Now a husband to Evelyn (Hayley Atwell) and a father to Madeline (Bronte Carmichael), he has a job he doesn’t like and responsibilities that keep him away from his family.
Christopher Robin got all grown up.
When his boss instructs him to cut 20% of his operating budget Christopher is pushed against the wall. The frivolities of youth are pushed even further to the background until Pooh, looking for his friends and in search of honey, shows up in London with the grumbling tummy and some sage words of advice. “I’ve cracked,” says Christopher when his childhood friend shows up. “I’ve totally cracked. “I don’t see any cracks,” replies Pooh sweetly, “some wrinkles maybe.”
A mix of live action and CGI characters, “Christopher Robin” doesn’t allow the special effects to get in the way of the film’s message of staying young at heart. The stuffed animals—Winnie and friends—don’t feel like and excuse to sell toys. Instead they are given distinct and engaging personalities that move the story and the message forward. Cummings, who has voiced Winnie since 1988, brings real personality to the character, imbuing his elliptical speaking patterns with equal parts humour and melancholy. Pooh also causes some Paddington-style chaos in the Robin household, adding to the slapstick factor in a movie that toggles between heartfelt and farce.
There is an undeniable sense of loss and longing in “Christopher Robin.” Loss, in the form of a childhood innocence gone missing—“I’m lost,” says Pooh, “but I found you.”—longing in the efforts made to regain the connection to childlike wonder and, in Robin’s case, his own daughter Madeline. Children might not get it, although I’m sure they will enjoy the stuffed characters, but adults will understand the curious tale about the importance of old friends and embracing the inner child.
3 ½ STARS