Evoking nostalgia is not enough to save Christopher Robin from being a gloomy affair. It’s too much about the titular character and not enough about the cute bear people want to see. At least audiences weren’t mis-sold.
Boarding school and serving in the Second World War slowly knocked the imagination out of Christopher Robin (Ewan McGregor). Now, he works all the time, putting his responsibilities at Winslow Luggages before his wife (Hayley Atwell) and daughter (Bronte Carmichael). The return of Winnie the Pooh (voiced by Jim Cummings) comes at just the right time to save Christopher from this dark and lonely path.
Gloom is the order of the day in The Hundred Acre Wood. The drained colour grading present for much of the film – which serves the post-WWII England setting – starves the screen of essential brightness and variety. Because of this, Christopher Robin might struggle to appeal to children.
Christopher Robin is about 75% of the film it wanted to be. It’s funny but not funny enough, it’s charming but not charming enough. It’s more of a mid-life crisis exploration than a fun family outing. McGregor’s performance is exactly what you’d want it to be, but the radiant Atwell deserves much better. Mark Gatiss was also there to play, well, Mark Gatiss.
Despite its issues, Christopher Robin is able to elicit enough warmth and nostalgia for an adult audience to make the film bearable – evident in the wide-eyed wonderment with which the Pooh-fans to my right enjoyed the film. Thankfully the film also features decent CGI, and it can only be a strength that it didn’t feel as long as it actually was. According to the film we have Christopher to thank for the invention of the paid holiday.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Christopher Robin is that it is banned from getting a release in China. Winnie the Pooh – also known as the “bear of very little brain” – has become a satirical pseudonym for President Xi Jinping amongst Chinese dissidents speaking out against his government online.
Christopher Robin is only the second-best film this year about a cuddly animated bear with an addiction to a sweet spread. But it certainly carries a message of balancing work and play that many more people should listen closely to.