I can’t claim to be any sort of Winnie the Pooh expert. As a kid, I had an unfathomable dislike for movies with clothes-wearing animals. And any brush with Winnie the Pooh always lead me to the question of wondering what a “Pooh” was in the first place.
After watching Christopher Robin, I have the distinct feeling that Pooh himself would tell me that a Pooh is “a bear with not much brain”, but very much heart. And that, in the nicest way possible, also describes Disney’s latest live-action movie perfectly.
Ewan McGregor bears the lofty responsibility of bringing Christopher Robin to life. But here he’s a grim and mature Christopher, having been smacked around by the circumstances of a hard life. His wife and daughter leave for a weekend in the country and rather than go with them, Christopher stays behind, surrounding himself with work. But his self-proclaimed quarantine is interrupted when he has a sudden encounter with his old friend Pooh.
As you can expect, Christopher Robin leans heavily on themes we’ve all seen before. Boy has imaginary friends. Boy grows up. Boy/Man forgets imaginary friends. Boy/Man has epiphany. And so on and so on. But where it could be tedious, the movie instead repackages it, making a beautiful reference to its original book form. Christopher Robin’s early life is a montage of nostalgic line drawings and events that are presented to us as “chapters”. It’s this faithfulness to A.A. Milne’s creation that makes me forgive all the cliches and slapstick moments that tend to pervade family movies. Heck, it even smacks of original Disney with the occasional song thrown in (well, Tigger’s song, to be precise) and all-round good feels.
But of course, what you’re really wanting to know about are the Hundred Acre Wood residents. Clothes-wearing animals aside, I’m super-relieved to say that the live action element actually works for all the creatures here. I was honestly expecting some sort of Chucky vibe that would border on creepy. Instead, I’m so glad to say that Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore and Tigger truly do live up to their full “aw” potential. Tigger even has that worn, unwashed look that plagues every over-loved toy and I can just imagine a new craze sweeping the nation for teddy bears that look just like live-action Pooh.
Looks aside, the personalities of each creature are so good that they threaten to outshine the human characters. I say this as a compliment because in a movie like Christopher Robin, this really isn’t a problem. Admittedly, the times when the Hundred Acre characters are by themselves can seem a bit awkward. But when paired with a human character, they suddenly become utterly endearing, and it was these moments that I truly relished.
Pooh’s character deserves a paragraph all by itself. His obsession with the simple things in life such as red balloons and, of course, honey is offset by an ability to say the most profound things quite by accident. On more than one occasion, I found myself thinking that I needed to write down some of his quotes:
POOH: You’re right. You should let me go for a fish in the sea.
CHRISTOPHER ROBIN: A fish in the sea? No. Efficiency.
In the end, I came away thinking that Christopher Robin is one of those movies that comfortably exercises that ability to entertain both children and adults. The close of the preview screening garnered gratuitous applause from the audience – something I hadn’t experienced since La La Land and I do think it is well-deserved. It’s one of those stories where its repercussions will last much longer than it takes to walk out of the cinema – which is more than I can say for a lot of movies.
And to prove it, there’s currently a red balloon tied to my dining room chair and I have to say I’ve never enjoyed a balloon more.