Few children’s stories are held as dear as those with Winnie the Pooh. Long before being licensed by Disney in 1961, Pooh and his friends had adventures that spanned the whole length of their Hundred Acre Wood. As much as modern day armchair critics like to cry foul whenever Disney acquires a new property, the massive corporation has always treated Pooh with a good deal of respect. This tradition continues with the impossibly charming Christopher Robin.
True to its title, the film is primarily the story of an adult Christopher Robin (Ewan McGregor). The story starts in flashback with the Hundred Acre Wood gang throwing a going-away party for their friend. Christopher Robin is growing up, and his parents are sending him away to boarding school. We then see him age at a rapid pace through a montage of memories – his father passing away, meeting his wife Evelyn (Hayley Atwell), being sent to war with a generation of men and the entire country of England in the 1930s.
Upon returning from war and meeting his daughter, Madeline (Bronte Carmichael), Christopher Robin dedicates himself to his work. He is by no means a miserable or grumpy miser; he’s a dedicated worker who has an entire team looking up to him to secure their jobs in the post-war economy. Just as his urgency at work intensifies, he must excuse himself from a trip to the country with Evelyn and Madeline. They’re devastated but, in British fashion, keep that buttoned in and take the trip without him. Christopher Robin is about to settle in to a long weekend of work when old Pooh bear appears in London.
Pooh has never stopped thinking of Christopher Robin. In a twist of magic, he’s transported to the exact place where he’s needed most. Christopher Robin must then return Pooh to the Hundred Acre Wood and still get through all of his work.
Though the drama in Christopher Robin is squarely focused on the humans in the story, the entire film is stolen by Pooh and his friends. They’re funny and sweet, and just innocent enough to make us believe in the purity of play and friendship again. The animation of the animals themselves is quite impressive. The whole gang look just like a bundle of stuffed animals who have been well-loved and gone on countless adventures together. Seeing Eeyore float down the river, or Piglet carry armfuls of acorns (ahem, “haycorns”), and Tigger bounce, is a lovely way to spend some time.
It’s also nice to watch a film that doesn’t go out of its way to craft drama. The car chases and heffalump evasions are good fun, but Christopher Robin never goes so far as villainizing characters unnecessarily. Although his boss is a jerk, Christopher Robin himself is not. The film is refreshingly empathetic toward the difficult position he’s stuck in. Evelyn is never shown as nagging; her concerns always come back to wanting a strong and healthy family.
Given the focus on adult career drama, I’m not quite certain if young kids will respond strongly to Christopher Robin. However, I was left utterly charmed by it and I hope other big kids will give it a shot.